Again, Political PR Misjudges The Real World

Between now and November is “prime time” for those in political PR. There are some solid communicators who have chosen that route within the profession. But, as we’ll see time and time again in the coming months, too many in that realm of our business play by a set of rules that often doesn’t work in “The Real World.”

Case in point: the handling of Rep. Thaddeus McCotter’s resignation last Friday. The Michigan Republication announced his resignation at about 5pm on the Friday of a Holiday Weekend. The old-fashioned PR playbook used to call for such an approach to help “hide” bad news. That was when there was such thing as a “news cycle” and set “newspaper deadlines.” It was also a time when news consumers largely tuned out news from Friday evening until the Sunday newspaper arrived at the front door. So, such an approach would work for public company news that required a release but companies didn’t want much attention.

Additionally, McCotter essentially ran and hid, refusing to be available to media, who represent the citizens – his customers for nearly a decade. That was probably a decision by a PR person who rationalized that it would “protect” him, while really hanging him out to dry. We see this frequently during times of political scandal and it almost never works.

These approaches backfired, as political PR strategy often does outside of the context of elections. McCotter’s resignation was not buried (it ran online all weekend, attracting huge “buzz,” as warranted, on social media) and it has “legs” – it is still prominent news nearly a week later. He’s a Congressman for crying out loud! And a recently controversial one at that. It’s not like he can sneak out of office undetected. The political and mainstream media have been hammering him not only for resigning months before the end of his term but also for not making himself available to answer questions.

In The Real World, professional character often reveals itself when someone leaves a job. In the political PR world, that needs to be remembered more often.