Posted by Tom Gable
Within a few days, San Diego Mayor Bob Filner had gone from the pinnacle of power to operating from a communications bunker, charged with many instances of sexual harassment and watching his power wane all around.
The story broke with KPBS where three of his key long-time supporters and fellow Democrats submitted letters asking for his resignation. The next day, his chief of staff resigned, followed by a steady stream of fellow Democrats piling on with calls for his resignation, as further documented by KPBS.
He issued an apology by means of a video (with no opportunity for Q&A), said he needed help, said he wasn’t resigning and characterized some of the problems as being changes in society. At age 70 and a veteran of politics, community service and a position of fighting for the underdog, Filner may have trouble making the case for somehow missing the women’s movement of the past few decades.
KOGO radio (AM 600) approached Gable PR on deadline Friday to talk about the key issues and what could be done from a crisis PR standpoint. Chris Merrill, talk show host, thought the video and CD approach was ludicrous. He asked for a fast analysis of what Filner had done and how it compared to standard approaches.
Gable PR has an essential crisis and risk communications check list. We have covered breaking crisis news many times, the most recently with President Obama and the IRS scrutiny of his political enemies.
The basic elements of facing the public when a crisis hits:
- Recognize the issue; admit to the transgression
- Apologize when necessary
- Provide a solution
- Set a vision for next steps and how the solution will be achieved
- Perform as promised
The first four steps are almost always done in public, where those presenting allow for questions. When organizations have issues with services and products, or even aberrant behavior by the leadership, image and reputation can be regained over time. The length of time is directly related to an organization’s accumulated goodwill, the magnitude of the crisis and the honest commitment the organization or individual makes to performing as promised. Those with the best reputations are given the benefit of the doubt in most cases.
Our previous blog on the Obama-IRS crisis offers links to many other resources as background for consideration. Organizations and individuals who have built up goodwill among many constituencies over the long term are more likely to recover than those with less goodwill (or more bad will) in the bank.
Can he recover? Can he change? Can he move reputation in a positive direction? Chip Merrill asked a great question: does he care?
Filner has a well-reported reputation for being a couple of different parts of the male anatomy in his dealings with people. He has been ecumenical, though, doling out the vitriol regardless of race, color, creed or national origin. Detractors from all stripes have provided testimony to his running government with unfettered arrogance, bullying and confrontational behavior. The alleged attacks on women, which may be made public soon, have created a new level of outrage and could bankrupt whatever remained in his goodwill bank.