Today, the Mayor of Detroit’s communications department provided another valuable lesson on what not to do in the realm of public relations. The Detroit News ran a photo, first run in The Hill, that shows the Mayor in a red dress on stage during his junior high years. Rather than explaining that he — and many of the school’s other jocks — donned a dress in the name of raising funds for charity even though it involved self deprecation, the Mayor’s office has inexplicably denied that he’s the one in the photo. Even though the consensus is that the photo clearly is of the Mayor. Even though quite a number of folks who went to school with the Mayor have verified that he is the guy in the red dress. Even though this over-reaction has turned a non-story into the story.
By raising a rucus about the photo, rather than rediscovering his sense of humor and explaining the photo’s context, the Mayor’s office has taken a photo that few would have seen in The Hill and plastered it over the front page of today’s paper along with a ridiculous denial by his spokesperson.
The lesson? Sometimes the best course of action is to do nothing other than putting the issue in perspective. The tendency to over-react to media coverage or blog posts (as Tom pointed out earlier) is human — but not necessarily smart. Before you call the editor or respond angrily to a posting, take the time to take a deep breath and explore less explosive alternatives. Or, better yet, give us a call for an objective take on the situation.