5 tips to recover from a major leadership blunder

I saw a post on Mashable about CEO blunders and read through it. It is perfect for political management, but I took the liberty of doing a re-write into political speak which should be handy for loyal staffers

Earlier this week, Bob Parsons, the CEO of GoDaddy, decided it would be a good idea to shoot an elephant and post graphic video of it on his blog. The move drew ire from animal rights groups and the general public, who lashed out at Parsons and his brand, severely damaging its public image.

It begs the question, what do you do when your party leader (or another high-level MP) completely screws up, and puts your brand image in jeopardy? How do you protect the party? More importantly, how do you stop voters from leaving in droves?

Here are a few crisis management techniques to keep in mind if that day ever comes.

1. Don’t Spin It, Don’t Fight It

Someone screwed up. Own it and move on. Trying to defend an indefensible act will only make it worse, and spinning it just makes you look that much more guilty. If you own what you’re doing, you might lose some voters, but at least you won’t lose your principles.

In the same vein, fighting with your detractors, like right wing bloggers, in an online forum (such as your own blog or a social media platform) never has a successful outcome. If you want to contact your detractors directly, do it, but it’s not recommended. Know that anything you email or post is public the second it leaves your computer.

2. Divert Attention Away From Your Leader

If your Leader continues to make gaffes on a regular basis, or his lifestyle simply doesn’t align with your party’s image, trying to change him is pointless. Rather, try and focus on the things your party does well — hopefully there are a few.

Do you have good poll numbers on any issue? Make it even more awesome and shout about it from the rooftops. Make it your focus in everything you talk about online. Divert attention away from the Leader and focus on your best assets, whomever they may be. While distracting the masses you can then help muster the numbers in order to replace the inept idiot.

3. Be Selective in the Media Outlets You Talk To

Notice that Apple is very selective about which media outlets it will grant interviews to. Be just as selective. If you can control the message just a bit more, it helps. This won’t solve all your problems, but don’t be afraid to turn down the occasional interview from time to time. Don’t do interviews with known media opponents. They smell blood and are worse than a pack of hyenas at the smell of blood.

4. Route All Media, Social and Otherwise, Through You

Your Leader is known for speaking from the hip, and usually not in a good way. Of course the media is going to try and go straight to him.

That’s not ideal in a tense PR disaster management situation, so your job is to ensure all outward communication is routed through you. Don’t let your Leader speak to the media at all, if possible. If you can’t control his blog or his Facebook and Twitter accounts, at least you can prevent your party from being harpooned on late night TV.

5. Is It Even Worth It?

Sometimes the Leader is just so foolish as to ignore all the good advice tendered. Sometimes it just isn’t worth it saving their sorry ass. If they wanted to bring their party down, the certainly don’t need any more help to do it.

Fast forward several years. The party is gone, the man has gone bankrupt and maybe even seen the inside of a jail cell. You made the right call. It was hard to walk away, but sometimes things really do have to end badly or they’ll never truly end.

No one likes to deal with an unruly Leader, but Leaders can sometimes lose sight of how their actions affect their party. Help them through this as much as you can, but also know when it’s time to cut and run.


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  • abjv

    Just watched Brownlie on Campbell Live trying to extracate the Government from the debacle that EQC is starting to look like.

    EQC has had 60 years to prepare for this. It is the sole reason for their existance. Doubtless they have good troops on the ground but under-resourced, under-trained and a hopeless set of administrative procedures they have to follow. EQC is looking like the Italian army in their leadership team – one shot and it all turns to custard, everyone of importance runs away and can’t be found.

    But they are a Govt agency, and they have a Minister. And like it or not, they are subject to Judicial review. Have they been told by their underwriters they have to be a right bunch of assholes, or does it just come naturally?

    Why is Brownlie fronting it, when I thought the dipton from Dipton was the Minister in charge of EQC? Its not about reconstruction, its about an insurance assessment and payout.

    Siumple, they’ve been reading Whale.

    “Don’t Spin It, Don’t Fight It” : Fail. (Without spin…”I know Bill’s the minister for this, but he hasn’t got a clue so its down to me to answer these questions”)

    “Divert Atten­tion Away From Your Leader”. Tick. John Key no-where in sight tonight.

    “Be Selec­tive in the Media Out­lets You Talk To”. Tick. Didn’t talk to HOS or the Truth.

    “Route All Media, Social and Oth­er­wise, Through You”. Tick. Kept the media away from Bill.

    “Is It Even Worth It?”. Hmm. Stuff this up and National is facing 3 years of coalition government with flakies (ACT and Maori) or having to honor the ‘no Winston’ pledge and going into opposition.

    EQC is giving Labour the hole it needs.

    It is not just Labour that has problems with their leadership team. Time to replace English with Joyce or Collins? Someone needs to bang a few heads together at EQC…