Tag Archive: Time-and-Place Rule


“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/

 

 

 

 

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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