Herman Cain Shoots Self in Foot with Terrible Media Response Strategy

Posted: November 3, 2011 in Media, Messaging, Politics
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

As of the time of this post, Herman Cain has taken a story which should have run for 2 or 3 days and will have extended it to at least a week.

All because he had an ineffectual strategy to handling the “ambush accusation”.

Early this week, Politico published a story talking about sexual harassment allegations made against him when he was CEO of the National Restaurant Association.  Then the organization did an ambush video interview with him (sorry, I can’t get the video to link here), which shows Cain as clearly unprepared to respond.

Throughout the week, Cain has given various inconsistent responses to questions about the accusations to various media outlets which has simply fed the frenzy and kept the story alive.

Because of the ineffective media response shown by Cain, we don’t know the whole story — yet.

Make no mistake, a story will emerge. Whether it is the truth, remains to be seen and will largely be buffeted by the winds of political gamesmanship and agendas.

That being said, much of the pain to Cain’s campaign is self-induced.  It is interesting to hear that Politico may have actually called Cain’s office before the story broke for a comment (which is usually the practice of most media operations). If that is the case, then there is no excuse for being unprepared.

Then, Cain’s first response is to blame someone for leaking the story(specifically, the Perry campaign).  That’s been the Obama administration‘s strategy for 3 years and it’s perceived to only affect those who are already haters anyway. It doesn’t seem very, um, presidential to throw a tantrum and not take responsibility and control of a situation.  It also makes the acqusations seem suspiciously true.

Here’s some ideas of what Cain’s team should have done:

  1. When Politico calls to get a comment on the story, the media team recognizes the threat, then the team springs into action getting background.
  2. Since the campaign should be monitoring coverage and anything and everything with Cain’s name on it, the publication of the story should have set off all sorts of Google Alerts.
  3. Cain and media team sit down and review the situation, develop a response strategy and look at additional questions that will probably be asked.
  4. Take control of the story — tell the truth within the confines of whatever the reported settlements entailed.
    1. Yes, there were accusations made a long time ago.
    2. They were baseless.
    3. A difficult decision was made to settle the charges rather than fighting them for cost reasons.
    4. I would rather have definitively cleared my name, but I respected the decision for the good of the organization.
    5. I take accusations like these as a personal insult because I respect my fellow co-workers and have always excelled at building productive teams.
  5. Repeat the message, don’t be seen as dodging the message.
  6. Reframe the debate.
    1. I guess I should have expected these kinds of dirty tricks when we are dealing with national politics.
    2. It shows us that we are making headway in our campaign and are perceived as a threat to the political insiders (Cain is campaigning as an “outsider”).
    3. This is not going to distract us from our real message of helping Americans, the economy, jobs, reducing the debt, pension reform, etc., etc.

Unfortunately, this uneven response makes Cain look unprepared for the rigors of running a nation.


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