Over the past week, I’ve seen the stories develop over Sarah Palin’s interesting take on history, Anthony Weiner’s unfortunate pictures on Twitter, and the indictment of John Edwards. In each of these cases, I’m seeing classic PR mistakes that these two seasoned politicians (and yes, Sarah is a politician at heart) make. Here is my top five list of where these folks went wrong:
5. Improperly Built Bridges: While we train our clients on how to take a question and smoothly transition it to the topic you want to discuss, (Clinton was very good at this), Sarah went off the reservation with her response (see video above for further elaboration) to a softball question. The question: “What have you seen so far today and what are you going to take away from this?” The Response: I’m not really sure.
4. Blaming The Pesky Hackers: Oh no, another politician did it again. While Anthony Weiner didn’t get caught with his pants down, so to speak, he did caught with something else in his, hmmmm…. shorts? Weiner immediately blamed the snafu on the most likely criminals – hackers.
3. I Shall Never Tell a Lie, unless it’s in front of a national audience… John Edwards was indicted for using campaign funds to keep his affair a secret. It wouldn’t have been such an issue if Edwards had admitted the affair instead of proclaiming his innocence on national TV. Rather, it tarnished his image and cut his political career short.
2. Mixing Public with Private: In a hyper-aggressive news cycle and always-on social media access, many people have made the mistake of sending out sensitive messages or pictures on Facebook and Twitter. In the end, Weiner is learning this firsthand. Not only did he send this photo publicly to a young female, but also has done this several times in the past. As a public official, this one should have been a no brainer – keep what you want private behind closed doors and not on the Internet for all to see.
1. Not Backing Down: It’s human to make a mistake or for something you say to be misconstrued. When given the opportunity, humbly admit your mistake and the media moves on to the next story. Unfortunately both Palin and Weiner prolonged the media cycle by not admitting to, in Palin’s case, a mistaken take on Paul Revere’s ride, and for Weiner, not taking responsibility for sending racy pictures over the Internet.
What other mistakes did these folks make and what lessons can be taught?