Tag Archive: DUI


“Being Native American has been part of my story, I guess, since the day I was born” – Senator Elizabeth Warren

What is the definition of a story with “legs” (No pun intended)?

From a public relations standpoint, it’s a negative story that can’t or will not be stopped.

BP couldn’t contain the gushing oil into the gulf.

British Petroleum or BP is eternally synonymous with “The Spill.”

Hillary was unable to stymie the drip-drip of the 2015/2016 home server/emails scandal?

Madam Secretary is now a distinguished private citizen with yet another book to sell (Look for it on your Walmart discount rack in about six-months).

And then there is the Senator Elizabeth Warren’s (D-Massachusetts) self-inflicted wound about whether she has Cherokee blood somewhere, somehow, anywhere on the maternal side of her family.

President Trump lovingly labels her, “Pocahontas,” clearly getting under the skin of the honorable senator from Massachusetts, once taunting her to take a DNA test to clarify her ancestry.

And yes, she took the Stanford University test and the results indicated she was at best 1/64th Native American and no worse than 1/1024th Native American. There may be (or not) a smidgen of Cherokee Nation in her blood line, which originated somewhere between 150 and 250 years ago.

The Cherokee Nation was not impressed.

From assessing the reaction from the Washington D.C. Punditocracy (95.2 million Google results in 0.33 second), Almost DailyBrett must ask: Why Senator Warren is egging on a story that should simply die a quiet death?

Is there some crisis communication wisdom that lies beneath the surface?

Crisis Communications Time and Place Rule

Trump challenged Warren to prove she was a “person of color” by taking a DNA test.

The senator responded by submitting to the much criticized blood exam. The real question is whether the almost certain Democratic candidate for president made a terminal move against her interest in becoming POTUS #46?

Maybe? Maybe not?

What are the four tenets for Crisis Communication: Tell the Truth. Tell It Quickly. Tell It All. Move On.

We can argue whether Warren is telling the truth, let alone telling it all.

We can agree that she is telling it (relatively) quickly and trying to move on (if she can).

Consider the calendar. A few days after the most likely inconclusive No Blue Wave (e.g., Dems may take the house, Republicans remain in control of the Senate) November 6 midterms, the pundits will quickly shift focus to the 2020 presidential cycle.

When a candidate has bad news to bury, when is the best time to exorcise this demon?  Your author counsels at a time and place of your choosing.

As Almost DailyBrett wrote three years ago, the failure of candidate George W. Bush to address his 1976 DUI arrest at a time and place of his choosing well before the 2000 presidential election cycle almost cost him the presidency.

The DUI was shockingly revealed just five days before election day. It was “breaking” news.

Senator Warren well knows that her Massachusetts colleague, John Kerry, was “Swift Boated” by Bush in the latter weeks of the tight 2004 presidential campaign. Kerry never recovered.

Perhaps Warren is dealing with the Cherokee Nation issue now, making “old news” of an anticipated attack line in the upcoming Democratic Party presidential primary season. You can envision her crossing her eyes when this ancient issue is brought up.

Undoubtedly Trump will charmingly continue to label her, “Pocahontas.” She in turn will have a few choice rejoinders for him.

For Warren she is hoping the “Native American” issue becomes “old news” in 2020, dispensed with glaring headlines/cartoons/jokes about a controversial DNA test … way back in 2018.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2018/10/18/just-about-everything-youve-read-warren-dna-test-is-wrong/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.c1ca6028cbc4

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/17/us/politics/elizabeth-warren-dna-test.html

https://www.foxnews.com/opinion/tammy-bruce-elizabeth-warren-and-her-little-dna-story

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J2PAVv5so2s

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2015/01/16/how-one-dui-in-1976-led-to-hanging-chads-in-2000/

 

 

 

 

“My finger said what I was feeling, I’m angry and I’m frustrated.” – Former Marketing and Communications professional Juli Briskman

TOPSHOT – A woman on a bike gestures with her middle finger as a motorcade with US President Donald Trump departs Trump National Golf Course October 28, 2017 in Sterling, Virginia. / AFP PHOTO / Brendan Smialowski (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)

As we all know: You cannot yell “Theatre!” in a crowded fire station.

There are indeed reasonable limits to our cherished First Amendment Right of Free Speech.

As an employee of any organization, one instinctively knows that not all speech is protected.

When are you on the clock working for the boss?

And when are you on your own time?

Is there a distinction (without a difference?)? Are they one-and-the-same?

Last month, Juli Briskman went out for a Saturday bike ride. During the course of her ride, she encountered a convoy of limousines and secret service protection. It was indeed the caravan of the 45th President of the United States.

Briskman utilized the opportunity from the bike lane to give the occupant the infamous one-finger salute.

As another sign of our digital 21st Century times, the photo of her gesture went viral. After becoming a 15-minute-plus celebrity, Briskman reportedly posted her middle-finger image on her Facebook and Twitter accounts.

As it turns out her employer, a federal contractor by the name of Akima LLC, found her gesture toward POTUS neither funny nor amusing. Briskman claimed she was just a simple bike rider on her own time flipping off the president.

Akima, located in an employment-at-will state (e.g., Virginia), quickly made the decision to fire Briskman for twice-at-least posting her single-digit salute to the nation’s chief executive on social media.

Considering the divisiveness of today’s politics, the coverage of her gesture/firing quickly became big-time news for affirmational journalists. GoFundMe reportedly even raised $30,000 to support Briskman, bringing into question whether subsequent coarsening-of-America actions will become charitable giving opportunities?

Still the basic interrogative needs to be answered: Are you really on your own time and as a result able to express yourself however/whenever you want, when you are employed on an at-will basis?

Pleasure Appointment

Five years ago, the author of Almost DailyBrett wrote about his “No Second Beer Rule,” reflecting on his tenure as a lead media spokesman/Press Secretary for California Governor George Deukmejian.

As a “Pleasure Appointee” of the 35th Governor of the State of California, yours truly never separated my official role in the Office of the Governor from my personal life. They were essentially one-and-the-same for eight years.

Many times media calls came in the middle of the night. Here’s where the no two-beer rule came into play: If I was quoted while under the influence and subsequently uttered a major gaffe, there is little doubt the governor would have relieved me from my duties.

Worse if I was pulled over for DUI, your author would NOT be just another irresponsible sap arrested for drunk driving. Instead, one can easily envision the headlines: “Governor Deukmejian Press Secy Arrested for DUI.”

There is absolutely no distinction in this case between private citizen/government employee in a sensitive job working for the governor of the largest state in the union.

Yours truly would have been immediately terminated with cause by the former attorney general and would understand completely why my foolish actions led to my dismissal. It was truly a privilege to serve the governor, and with that opportunity came a sacred responsibility.

There would not be any $30,000 support payment for me.

#HasJustineLandedYet

I’m an IAC employee and I don’t want @JustineSacco doing any communications on our behalf ever again. Ever.” – Unnamed IAC employee responding Justine Sacco’s tweet

Justine Sacco had it made.

At 30-years-young, she was the senior director of Corporate Communications for InterActiveCorp (NASDAQ: IAC), a $3 billion+ internet and media services company with more than 100 recognizable brands (i.e., The Daily Beast, Match.com, Vimeo, Angie’s List …).

During the 2013 holidays, Sacco was flying from JFK with a stop at Heathrow and then continuing on to Cape Town, South Africa. She was firing off acerbic tweets about English teeth and German body odor during her trip. And then she hit the send button on an immediately viral, less-than-140 characters tweet, which changed her life forever.

Sacco was terminated before her plane landed in Cape Town. She slept during the course of her 11-hour flight from London to Cape Town with her phone in “airplane” mode.  She did not understand the consequences of her tweet until she turned on her phone.

As a college professor teaching public relations, advertising, corporate communications and investor relations, my students are simply stunned when Sacco’s PowerPoint slide of her tweet is first presented.

Was she simply not thinking? Was she trying to be cute or clever? Is she, racist?

The answer to the first is certainly, yes. The response to the second is, most likely. The fact the third question is even asked in a serious vain is damning in-and-of itself.

She may have been on a holiday trip to South Africa and may have seen herself as simply exercising her guaranteed First Amendment Rights as a citizen. Nonetheless, she was the senior director of Corporate Public Relations for a major publicly traded company and she fired off an acerbic and insensitive tweet that comes across as racist and not caring about the spread of AIDS in Africa.

InterActiveCorp was well within its rights in terminating Justine. In fact, the company really had no choice.

Maybe if she had just flipped off the President of the United States, she may still be working for IAC today … or maybe not.

Alas, life is just not fair.

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/woman-flips-off-donald-trump-fired_us_59fe0ab4e4b0c9652fffa484

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2012/08/02/no-second-beer-rule/

http://thehill.com/blogs/blog-briefing-room/news/359727-crowdfunding-campaign-raises-over-30k-for-woman-fired-for

http://www.foxnews.com/us/2017/11/07/woman-fired-after-flipping-off-trumps-motorcade.html

http://www.cnn.com/2017/11/06/politics/juli-briskman-motorcade-protest/index.html

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/15/magazine/how-one-stupid-tweet-ruined-justine-saccos-life.html?_r=0

http://uproxx.com/webculture/what-happened-to-justine-sacco-the-woman-whose-life-was-ruined-by-an-aids-joke-she-made-on-twitter/

 

 

 

 

… and again, again, and again …

Why is it that some of the best and the brightest just don’t get it when it comes to personal public relations?

There will always be bad days.

And with these bad days are the prospects of worse days in the future.

Was Yogi Berra referring to Brian Williams, John Kitzhaber, Anthony Weiner, John Edwards, George W. Bush, Tiger Woods …?

Almost DailyBrett seriously doubts that Yogi recognizes the name, John Kitzhaber, let alone his now-infamous girlfriend, and the state in which he until recently served as its governor.kitzhaberhayes

Having extended our due respect to Yogi, let’s contemplate another famous Berra-ism: “You can observe a lot by just watching.”

Tell the Truth, Tell it All, Tell it Fast, Move On …

The four principles of crisis communications live on, beginning with what mumsys all across the fruited plain have told daughters and sons: “Always tell the truth.”

These four principles or steps in quick order – Tell the Truth, Tell it All, Tell it Fast, Move On — also translate into another adage: Manage or be managed.

  • Brian Williams with his propensity for self-aggrandizement and exaggeration (e.g., starving at the well-stocked Ritz Carlton in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina) could not or would not recognize the danger signals of his own behavior. Williams became the story (a no-no for any reporter), lost control of this tale and eventually his NBC anchor desk, his position and quite possibly his career as we know it.williamsnbc
  • John Kitzhaber was starting his fourth term as the governor of Almost DailyBrett’s adopted, Oregon. His arrogance mounted over time, including his heavy-handed sacking of the president of the University of Oregon, Richard Lariviere. The ultimate downfall for Kitzhaber pertained to Oregon’s “First Lady” (the governor’s squeeze), her high-salary non-profit job, influence peddling and the governor’s refusal to acknowledge an obvious conflict of interest until it was too late. Yep he had the opportunity to manage, but in the end he was managed and with it he became a poster child for term limits.
  • Anthony Weiner attempted to bluff his way out of the mounting evidence of his “selfies” being sent to designated females from Seattle to New York.
  • John Edwards cheated on his dying wife with his videographer, and stonewalled the media about his love child, Frances, until he was caught by none other than the National Enquirer.
  • George W. Bush had the opportunity to reveal his 1976 DUI arrest in Kennebunkport, Maine (manage), but chose to keep it under wraps until the story exploded four days before the 2000 election (managed).
  • Tiger Woods repeatedly pleaded for familial privacy as TMZ kept listing the names and details of even more women that had affairs with the world’s number one golfer. Woods was managed by the media and his career has never been the same.

Who’s Next?

“I tell our players all the time, ‘As soon as you start going down the wrong track and you start doing something wrong, the clock starts ticking until the day you are caught, because it’s going to happen’…In our world today, you think it’s not going to be found out eventually?” – Nebraska Football Coach Mike Riley

“Who’s Next” is the question posed by Pete Townshend in 1971, but in this case it applies to who or what organization is going to fail to recognize the crisis communication warning signs, eventually losing control of an issue, and then being subjected to a seemingly never-ending story with “legs.”

For BP and its Deepwater Horizon oil platform, the media coverage of the 2009 catastrophic spill that immediately killed 11 workers lasted for more than three months. The multi-billion litigation and the permanent damage to the BP brand continues to this day. “BP” and “Spill” are synonymous terms.oilspillbird

For far too many in the reputation business, crisis communications is simply, response. Certainly, there is a response component to crisis communications, but just as important are the words, prevention and management.

Samsung could have prevented or at least blunted the effect of the movie producer Michael Bay meltdown at the Consumer Electronics Show by practicing how to respond to a faulty teleprompter.

Johnson & Johnson’s Tylenol team managed the discovery of cyanide–laced capsules and provided a text-book example of management that not only saved the brand, but restored public confidence in pharmaceutical industry and generated an entirely new regime of safety packaging.

There is no doubt that we will soon be reading, commenting, tweeting, trolling, memeing about some preventable human or institutional failing as it applies to legal tender, sexual dalliances or personal aggrandizement that could have been prevented or at least managed.

Instead, the story takes off and spins out of control. Eventually the digital ones and zeroes go critical and the reactor core starts to melt down. The monster grows legs and runs for days, weeks, months …

What did mumsy say about telling the truth?

http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/y/yogi_berra.html

http://www.oregonlive.com/education/index.ssf/2011/12/the_rise_and_fall_of_richard_l.html

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2014/10/15/loma-prieta/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deepwater_Horizon_oil_spill

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2014/01/13/damn-the-teleprompters/

http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=meme

 

 

“Not disclosing the DUI on my terms may have been the single costliest political mistake I ever made … I may have just cost myself the presidency.” – President George W. Bush

“We should have brought it (DUI arrest) up at a time and place of our choosing. I should have made a more convincing case for doing so. Instead I helped George W. Bush keep a secret that almost cost him the White House.” – Karl Rove, Senior Advisor to President George W. Bush

How could a Maine drunk-driving arrest in America’s bicentennial year lead to the infamous hanging-chads election debacle in Florida 24 years later?DUI

As virtually all of us know, George W. Bush used to drink. And with the consumption of alcohol, sometimes more than one or two beers too many,  the probability of a drunk driving arrest increases. That’s exactly what happened to Bush in Kennebunkport, Maine on Labor Day weekend in 1976.

Serving as Governor of Texas two decades later, Bush was asked by reporters if he was ever arrested for DUI. He didn’t tell a fib, but he also did not tell the whole truth about his 0.10 blood-alcohol level DUI misdemeanor, paying a fine and having his license suspended for 30 days.

Instead, he confided that he did not have a perfect record; he engaged in foolish activities as a youth; and he urged fellow Texans to not drink and drive. Having the vantage point of history, we know now this response while technically correct was an opportunity lost.

Reflecting back on his evasive answer, Bush realized that he could have held an event with Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) – and use this backdrop to disclose his own DUI – putting out the negative news at a time and place of his own choosing … and over time making the 1976 Kennebunkport arrest ancient history.

A specifically timed disclosure was exactly the advice of his aides, Rove and Karen Hughes, and conceivably others on the governor’s staff, but Bush stubbornly would not agree to get the DUI out in the public and on the record. Instead, this DUI magically came into the public consciousness exactly four days before the closest-ever 2000 election.

Rove contended that even if this DUI revelation moved 2 percent of the electorate to shift from Bush to Al Gore or from Bush to not voting that would have cost the then-Texas Governor 2.1 million votes. Translated: Instead of razor-thin wins in New Mexico, Wisconsin, Iowa and Oregon – all four of these states ended up in the Al Gore column – Florida’s electoral votes may not have been necessary and history would have been different.

Tell the Truth, Tell it All, Tell It Fast, Move On

I’ve oftentimes said that years ago I made some mistakes. I drank too much, and I did on that night … I regret that it happened, but it did. I learned my lesson.” – Governor George W. Bush to reporters four days before election-day in 2000bushdui

The mantra in effective crisis communications is first-and-foremost to tell the truth. Tell the complete story, tell it as fast as possible (not four days before a national election). Move on quickly, hopefully preventing the story from having “legs.”

Let’s face reality here. Almost DailyBrett has seen cases where personal pride and human nature cause good people to sweep unwanted remembrances underneath the rug, hoping they will never be heard from again. Darn it, these stories have a habit of slithering out just when you least expect them.

We watched in amused horror as former presidential candidate John Edwards denied repeatedly that he had an affair and a love child (e.g., Frances Quinn) with videographer Rielle Hunter while his wife Elizabeth, was fighting a losing battle against cancer.

After days of kicking and screaming, Edwards came clean about the affair with Hunter, but still denied the love child, but even this revelation was not the whole truth. Eventually, the National Enquirer got a story right, complete with photos of Edwards, Hunter and their lovely offspring.edwards1

Did someone say something about Tell the Truth, Tell it All, Tell it Fast and Move On?

Does anyone give a rat’s derriere about John Edwards anymore?

Manage or Be Managed

“The news of the arrest came out at the worst possible time, with only four days to go in the campaign. Many have suggested that I would have served my candidate better had I insisted he disclose it earlier; maybe so.” – Karen Hughes, Counselor to President George W. Bush

When it comes to the most important public relations and brand/reputation management of all, our own personal PR and our own brand and reputation, we all have a choice: manage or be managed.

The campaign apparatus of George W. Bush conducted opposition research on their own candidate, which is standard practice as one knows the other side of the aisle will be digging into the weeds looking for “good dirt.” The Bush campaign oppo research did not discover the DUI, even though it was buried in the public records in scenic Kennebunkport. The erroneous conclusion: The coast was clear.

Instead, the storm clouds with no coincidence came pouring in at the worst time possible for the Bush campaign and with it a sudden break of momentum and the potential loss of more than 2 million votes

We could have been spared the one-month legal spectacle of hanging chads in Florida.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/11/06/AR2010110602835.html

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/03/05/AR2010030502249.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Karen_Hughes

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Edwards_extramarital_affair

 

 

 

 

The Time and Place for Bad News

As public relations practitioners we have all learned the following about bad news: It almost always finds a way into the public domain.

We have a choice: We can either manage it or be managed by it.

One of the biggest problems with handling bad news is that executives and their lieutenants in many cases wish for it to just simply go away or be swept under the rug. This is understandable human nature, but it is not good communications policy.

For publicly traded companies, failing to immediately disclose “material” information  only to have it surface later will most likely result in SEC fines for violation of Regulation FD (Fair Disclosure) and lead to a series of field days for the plaintiff’s bar. http://www.sec.gov/answers/regfd.htm

Many partisans want to shoot the messenger and skip over the important message, in this case, Karl Rove, the author of “Courage and Consequence,” www.rove.com. His book provides an important lesson about bad-news management; and in particular a missed opportunity that almost cost his boss, George W. Bush, the presidency. It pertains to Bush’s DUI arrest in Kennebunkport, Maine on Labor Day weekend in 1976.

“Over the years, Bush had told a few confidants about the arrest,” Rove recalled . . . “But Bush was adamant he didn’t want it public . . . Despite our mild encouragement to make it public, Bush said ‘no.’

“At the time, I thought most Americans would decide this was no big deal. Bush had been 30, gave up drinking entirely 10 years later, and incident was far in the past. Nevertheless, we should have brought it up at a time and place of our choosing…”

Ah, the time-and-place rule of strategic communications comes to the forefront once again. You can control the flow of information or have that information control you. The intransigence of the chief executive in this case almost cost him the White House, and conceivably resulted in him losing the popular vote against Al Gore.

The story “broke” four days before the November 2000 general election (Isn’t it amazing how negatives can surface at the most inopportune time for your clients, when through your own inaction you allow someone else manage your bad news?)

“Did this last-minute revelation of Bush’s decades-old DUI hurt?” Rove asked. “Yes, a lot. First it knocked us off message at a critical time . . . Second, we had made a big issue of Gore’s credibility and now we had a problem with Bush’s.”

Even though he admits that it is impossible to accurately quantify the impact of the DUI revelation just 96 hours before Election Day, Rove said if just 2 percent of voters changed their minds that meant that 2.1 million votes went into the other guy’s column. That figure is approximately 4x Gore’s eventual 543,895-vote lead in the popular vote and probably cost Bush four states that he lost by less than 1 percent: Iowa, New Mexico, Oregon and Wisconsin.

“Had he won them, this would have added a total of 30 electoral votes to Bush’s column, which would have allowed him to win the White House without Florida. Receiving a majority of the popular vote and winning the Electoral College by a margin of 305 to 232 would have given Bush a much better start. Of the things I would redo in the 2000 election, making a timely announcement about Bush’s DUI would top the list.”

Engaging in a little Monday morning quarterbacking 10 years later, what should have been the strategy of the Bush campaign team?

●First, convince the principal of the inevitability of disclosure and strongly suggest a management program. Lay out very clearly the consequences and folly associated with the withholding of critical information.

●Second, look at the calendar – the 1999, not the 2000-election-year calendar – for a strategic time and place to make the announcement or to allow the news to miraculously leak. The strategy is to make the DUI arrest ancient news by the time of the 2000 general election.

●Third, figure out the means of disclosure (e.g. deliberate leak, response to a TV interviewer, Drunk-driving awareness event). The 1976 DUI arrest could be seen by the public as a “lessons learned” experience.

Granted that saying all of the above is easier than doing. However, controlling the story on your own terms and dictating the timing is far better than responding to media questions about SEC fines, attorney strike suits or even losing the presidency.

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