Rob Ford in all his close-up glory
In light of Rob Ford’s recent confession to smoking crack cocaine, we decided to write about how his train-wreck of a impromptu press conference could have been diverted from disastrous to passable. After a short discussion, we realized that he made the situation much worse simply by the way he presented it (click the link to watch the press conference). We can use Ford as an example for any communications crisis/disaster by explaining different ways that it can be dealt with. Preserving at least a shred of the company’s or person’s dignity in a PR disaster such as this one is key. Even when it seems impossible to do so, such as Mayor Rob Ford’s case, there are still ways to soften the blow (or crack).
Communications crises and disasters are inevitable at some point or another. It’s knowing how to deal with them accordingly and ‘saving face’ that makes a scandal less…well…scandalous.
Step 1: Admitting the problem - Imagine how differently Mayor Rob Ford’s press conference would have gone if he had shifted focus from his crack-smoking video to him publicly admitting that he has an alcohol problem and that he will be seeking help. Temporarily leaving his position as Mayor while he is ‘recovering’ also would have helped greatly. By simply blaming it on a ‘drunken stupor,’ he gives absolutely zero gravity to the situation. Calling your ex and yelling at them is something that happens in a drunken stupor. A mayor of a city caught smoking crack on video is a problem. You will still be held accountable, of course – there’s no way you can get around that. But at least you have admitted your problem to the public and shown them that you are human with imperfections and mistakes.
Step 2: Owning up to the problem – It seems as if the mayor spent most the press conference bashing the reporters for asking the wrong questions and claiming that he did not lie to them at any point in the past. As if he’s trying to blame the reporters for his mistake, Mayor Rob Ford is trying to shift focus from him denying allegations to the fact that the reporters were at fault by not asking the right question. He admits to making mistakes, but it becomes overshadowed by his blaming the reporters. By owning up to his problems and being completely honest with the public on a more humbling level, he could have saved some respect (not much, but some). What else can be said when you tell people “I did this, and therefore I will be held accountable for my actions,” Sure, you’ll still be viewed negatively, but you’ll be saving some face.
Step 3: Lay low - If you’ve admitted your problem and owned up to your problem, then you’ve got a good chance to recover from the publicity mess. However, we recommend you lay low for a while and let the dust (insert another crack pun) settle before coming back out into the public eye. At this point, stepping down or temporarily leaving his position is Mayor Rob Ford’s only chance to survive this scandal.