73 words that could have saved Rob Ford’s political career

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford Meets The Media
Toronto Mayor Rob Ford Meets The Media
Toronto Mayor Rob Ford meets the media. The question is, which one has the most power.

Rob Ford is in a mess.  His credibility and trustworthiness are gone.  While much has been written about Ford’s media strategy, or lack of it, the truth is that by the time Torontonians left the city for their cottages on the afternoon of May 17th for the Victoria Day long weekend, it was always going to come to this.  The only person that didn’t appear to realize was the Mayor himself.

These 73 words, had Ford made a formal statement on the morning the story broke, could have saved him and the city from ridicule, embarrassment and the media throng that has engulfed him for the last six months.

“I wanted to come and talk to you about the allegations made by a number of media outlets overnight.  Clearly, these are serious allegations.

In the light of the allegations I have spoken with members of my executive committee and have asked Council for permission to take a leave of absence.  Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday will be deputizing in my absence.

I have no plans to make additional comment at this time.”

This short, simple, statement would done a number of things.  It would have removed the Mayor from the focus of the  media scrum; it would have enabled him to take proper legal counsel and prepare future statements with consideration; and it would have enabled him to avoid the perception that he was ducking the questions everybody wanted answers to.

The statement would also have allowed him time to get whatever help he may need; it would have enabled others to make prepared statements on his behalf; enabled brother Doug, or his lawyer, to sit down with editors of the city’s major media outlets to explain some of the things the Mayor has now confirmed are true; and, most importantly, it would have demonstrated that he takes both the situation and respects the position which he holds.

Ford could, despite his admission that he has smoked crack cocaine, have even used the leave for political gain.  In the event that he did have a substance abuse problem, Ford could have taken time to address it away from the media spotlight and, as a result, ensure that none of his political rivals could use it against him.   It’s hard to criticize somebody for acknowledging they have a problem, apologize for behaviour resulting from it, and who got the necessary treatment.

Read more about Rob Ford’s PR and Media ‘Strategies’

Public Relations lessons every entrepreneur can learn from Rob Ford

Rob Ford, Lessons

Today Toronto Mayor Rob Ford finally admitted that he has smoked crack cocaine.  Having dodged media questions for more than six months, issued repeated denials there was a video of him smoking crack, that he had used crack and that he had a substance abuse issue, and accused the media of being out to get him today we saw a clearly contrite Ford acknowledging that he has smoked crack on at least one occasion.

From a PR perspective the crack is now a side-issue.  It’s a serious issue, but had Ford done what he has done today when the allegations first surfaced he wouldn’t find himself in the mess he does today.  Had he provided clear, honest answers, accepted that there was a video, that he had a substance problem and taken a leave of absence to take care of his personal problems he would have killed the story.  He could have dealt with the problems away from the spotlight and worked with his advisers on a strategy to return to city hall and run for a second term as Mayor.

What are the lessons that entrepreneurs can learn from Rob Ford?

First – get ahead of the story.  Had Ford admitted there was a chance the rumors of a video were true, that he has an alcohol problem and taken an immediate leave of absence he would have avoided the media feeding frenzy that has descended on him and City Hall over the last six months.

Second – be specific. Vague arguments or semantics will only encourage the media to seek clarity.  Had Rob Ford been specific about, what he is now saying is a single use of crack cocaine, it would have avoided the media speculation.

Third – change the story.  An admission that he had smoked crack cocaine, had a substance problem and was taking a leave of absence to seek help would have meant the story would have quickly moved on from him smoking crack.  There is no long-term story in a man who is seeking treatment for a substance abuse problem.

Fourth – the truth will likely be known.  It might not be immediately, but – like Lance Armstrong found out – repeated denials, threats and protestations of innocence only make the situation worse when the truth does eventually emerge.

Read more about Rob Ford’s PR and Media ‘Strategies’

Rob Ford’s Last, Best, Chance?

Dealing with the media can be challenging at the best of times.  At the worst of times it can be overwhelming – for even the best practitioners.  If, as we are being led to believe, Toronto Mayor Rob Ford addresses the accusations that have been made over the last six months it could be his last and, perhaps, his best chance.

Ford has had a difficult relationship with the media since he took office in October 2010.  He’s made things worse with his constant name-calling and baiting the ‘left-leaning media’ that he claims are out to get him.  This has only strengthened their resolve to have him answer their questions and their pursuit of him – ‘door-stepping’ him at every opportunity.

Rob Ford should take this opportunity – he should have taken it sooner in my opinion – to answer some of the questions that have been raised about his conduct.  What is the truth behind the video the Toronto Star and Gawker first, and this week Police Chief Bill Blair, reported they had seen? Does he have a substance dependency problem? Why would Toronto Police be surveilling him?

Out of the glare of the cameras, the shouted questions, the growing throng of media outside his City Hall office he has an opportunity to put his side of the story.  He has a sympathetic co-host in brother Doug Ford. He can set out his plans for the coming weeks and months. He has the opportunity to take a temporary, or permanent, leave of absence that will afford him the time he needs to take care, and control, of a situation that will continue to spiral out of control if he allows it.

And, after the show, he can slip away from the studio quietly to fight the allegations without the pressure of the media spotlight; to get the help and support he clearly needs [regardless of the veracity of the accusations, the stress of the last 6 months has clearly taken its toll]; and give himself time to take care of himself and his family.

I hope he does.

Read more about Rob Ford’s PR and Media ‘Strategies’