Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Weary Wednesdays: And Another One Bites the Dust

South Carolina. Home of smiling faces, beautiful places and countless scandals. From the first shots fired on Ft. Sumter, my home state has been a hotbed for notoriety (do the names Shannon Faulkner and Susan Smith ring a bell?), most recently with Governor Mark Sanford's mysterious disappearance and hike on the Appalachian Trail, which apparently now extends all the way to Argentina.

While his year-long affair with an Argentinian woman seems to be the big story, the more fascinating part of this tale for me is his week-long disappearance. Politicians have been having affairs since the beginning of time, but I can't remember the last time one went completely AWOL. Can you imagine Jed Bartlett taking off without Leo McGarry knowing his whereabouts?

What a failure in crisis communications. And if his staff did have a crisis plan, they certainly didn't use it. While the average Jane might be able to take a week's vacation for a secret international tryst disguised as a solo hike in the wilderness, you just can't get away with that when you're an elected official. And the cover story they concocted was simply ludicrous, especially considering that it was Father's Day weekend, his wife pretty much said she didn't know or care about his whereabouts AND Sanford's car was found parked at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.

I've dealt with my share of communications crises, and I'm grateful that none of them were this newsworthy (though we were still getting angry emails about ASO Principal Guest Conductor Donald Runnicles several months after he mouthed off about moving to Canada!). I do feel bad for his staff, because tactically, it's kind of impossible to manage media relations if your client keeps you in the dark. But if your own wife tells the press she has no clue where you are, you know the jig is going to be up--and soon. While his affair may have caught up with him eventually, Sanford could have dealt with it on his own terms if he'd had the common sense to 1. concoct a decent cover story and 2. keep his communications staff in the loop.

And this is exactly why--in spite of my daydreams about becoming the next C. J. Cregg'--I will happily stick to lifestyle and arts/entertainment PR. And pray that my clients don't suddenly develop a penchant for trashing hotels, and if they do, that they're not quite famous enough for Perez Hilton to care!


  1. Yes, this would definitely be a case study for how not to handle crisis communications. Or conduct a clandestine affair, for that matter.

  2. Hi, very intersting post... indeed!

    I am Italian... I believe everybody know how Italian Prime Minister is ... well let's say playboy I don't want to be rude! Anyway I think that in USA THING would be a bit different... Apparentely I was wrong



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