New York Congressman, Anthony Weiner, has had a “ca-tweet-strophe” for the ages. A photograph “mysteriously” surfaced on Weiner’s twitter account of an underwear-clad groin. Subjected to puns for perhaps the rest of time, Weiner has consistently refused to say “with certitude” that the picture was of his, well, you know. But he hasn’t outright denied it either.
While the situation is utterly embarrassing to say the least, Weiner’s pickle provides a lesson for all of us in crisis communications, or the process of skillfully handling news stemming from a bad situation.
The congressman has said his account was hacked, but never went to the police. It’s important to have some sort of credibility in these situations. While a hacking was definitely possible, without a second source it’s harder to believe.
Weiner has also given contradictory remarks to various media outlets. Our advice to him would have been to “Pick a stance, defend it, and stick to it.” After he said he was “not going to allow this to be what I talk about all week,” he sat down for approximately eleven hours of interviews with NBC, Fox News, CBS, CNN, ABC, and others. Through it all, he’s remained mysterious and said different things as to his breadth of knowledge regarding the photo, and if in fact it was taken of him.
As House Majority Leader Eric Cantor said on Fox news this week, “My advice would be to come clean and clear it up. I mean, perhaps he’s trying, but I know there’s a lot of explaining going on without a lot of clarity.”
Crisis communications isn’t about spinning bad news into good, it’s about limiting the fall-out from bad events and making sure the stain doesn’t permanently taint your good reputation. Weiner could’ve used some tips from Boardroom’s crisis communications experts.
To get his panties out of a bundle, (pun intended), Weiner could and should have done the following:
o Call his trusted advisors. As soon as word gets out, call your PR consultant versed in crisis communications, as well as your attorney.
o Think before speaking. Take time to assess the situations, and the irrevocable consequences. If Weiner wasn’t prepared to speak he should not have expressed concern, as he told Fox News, “We’re concerned about saying anything indefinitely.” Right there, it implies that Weiner has something to hide. If you’re not prepared to speak, say, “We are determining exactly what has happened and will respond with a statement when we can.” This shows you’re actively engaged and not avoiding the questions, and the truth.