Crisis Communications 101: In times of adversity, the top person of an organization should be front and center—available and accessible to publicly demonstrate and reassure that the problem is being handled. It is what we counsel and prepare our clients to do at Tanner Friedman and what I discussed today with Bill Gallagher and Fox-2 News.
Certainly no one can fault the mayor for choosing, first and foremost, to spend time with his family as privately as possible. With three young school age boys, perhaps leaving town for their Florida vacation home was a wise move from that standpoint. Now, however, nearly a week since the text and sex scandal broke, it is time for Kilpatrick to reappear and say something to his constituents.
Even when legalities are involved, one can always say something. In this case, Kilpatrick needs to publicly apologize—to the city, his employees and his family—and then reassure that he remains committed to running the City of Detroit. How and where should he do this? Having already issued a written statement, the mayor needs to show face and speak—perhaps in a controlled setting, such as via a video message or live TV satellite feed. A public press conference would only be a circus, and, his lawyers will only allow him to say so much.
Time can heal and people will forgive. In this case, time is running out on future forgiveness.