Monday, April 07, 2008

When Things Go Badly 

Mrs. Clinton apparently has been caught delivering another inaccurate story in her stump speech and she has shaken up her campaign staff yet again. The two events are not related but are symptomatic of what happens when things go badly for a candidate. The hard part is fixing errors on the fly without looking desperate. Mrs. Clinton is a tough campaigner, and if any one can do it, she can, in spite of comparing herself to Rocky.

The point here is when a communications campaign starts to slip, it is hard to turn it around. People begin to look closely for mistakes and inevitably, they find them. One has to be accurate in every instance and leave no doors open for critics.

This is an issue we discuss often at work. Sometimes it is hard to find a story angle that can withstand attack, particularly in fast-moving environments. It becomes a mental chess game. If we emphasize this, it might lead to that. Or, if we emphasize something else, it could lead to the following. We are not spinning. We are looking at the facts and comparing them to the marketplace. The idea is to find the most powerful news angle. One gets but one chance to approach a reporter, so it is important to be right.

Perhaps Mrs. Clinton's fact-checking needs a bit more work. Whatever the case, each time she errs, the slope becomes steeper and the downhill slide swifter. One can't afford errors too often.

Exaggerating a point that could be beneficial for your boss and eventually you is a temptation hard to avoid. The speaker or speech writer takes the word of so and so who checked their facts (or not).

But I think when it comes down to who people vote for, they will pick someone who will do something for them in the office. I think folks have a higher threshold for mistakes from politicans. There's an understood amount of distrust. It's the reporters that have to worry the most about trust issues.

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