Friday, May 31, 2013

How not to handle a crisis: the Toronto experiment

Okay, let's say you're the mayor of a large north-american metropolis. You got elected on a platform pretty much limited to taking a close rein on the city's bottom line. Your supporters love you for your tough "blue collar" attitude but many more people think you're a bully, are uncaring and lack vision.

You've been accused of being impaired at public events, of groping, of using profane language, of flipping the bird at fellow drivers and texting behind the wheel ... quite a track record.

Then, comes a real whopper. The country's largest newspaper which you accuse of waging a war on you and your administration, has a picture on its front page stating that there's a video of you smoking crack cocaine with drug dealers. 

What's your immediate reaction? to say nothing ... for seven whole days ... meanwhile, here's what happens (for a complete timeline ... see here) :

It should be clear by now to most readers of this blog that the behaviour above is pretty much the antithesis of a good crisis communications strategy.  Here's how our subject went wrong ... by being: 

Maladroit: no matter what he does, he appears to lack any poise
Obfuscating: he tries to divert attention, deflects questions, appears untruthful 
Reactive: his actions keep putting him on the defensive 
Obnoxious: everything he's doing is alienating more and more people
Non-disclosing: he acknowledges nothing, keeps saying it's "business as usual" ...

What our subject ought to be instead:

Sincere: if you acknowledge a fault, it will in time be forgotten/forgiven ...
Magnanimous: because calling the press "maggots" for doing their job is not a good tactic
Assertive: chose a path of action, drive the agenda, don't appear to hide
Responsive: chosing silence is not a good option when the whole world watches on
Tuned in: don't ignore the chaos around you, show you still have control ..

What do you think the mayor should do ? 

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