Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Not a Good Way To Handle PR 

Who knows what happened between Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney of Georgia and a Capitol law enforcement officer? The way McKinney handled the incident doesn't smack of smart PR. McKinney immediately called a press conference and claimed racism with a group of African-American clergy and lawmakers behind her in support. Apparently she took no questions from the media. She gave no explanations for why she had failed to wear her identifying badge, for why she had failed to stop when asked and for why she struck the law enforcement officer.

McKinney might be correct. It could have been racism, but on the other hand she didn't place herself in the best of circumstances. She is using an old publicity trick of making charges loudly to spin an incident her way. If she succeeds, she will have gained a free pass for suspect behavior and the enmity of law enforcement officers who apparently were doing their job -- albeit badly. She will also have projected an image of privilege that doesn't sit well. But, on the other hand, Senators and Representatives have for the 200+ years of this country been able to slip by laws that apply to other citizens because of privilege.

What's bothersome about the incident from a PR perspective is the habit of escalating any and everything to discrimination. Many groups do it. Charges of anti-Semitism, anti-Hispanic, anti-Asian are thrown about too freely and with too little evidence on too many occasions. It plays well with supporters, but after awhile, it is the boy calling wolf once too often. People stop listening and pay little attention to real incidents of racism that need remedial treatment.

Good PR is built first on facts and secondly, on persuasive techniques. The Congresswoman might wish to learn that.


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