A special #BeMyGuest post…
I’ve been pestering Elissa Freeman (@ElissaPR) to write a guest post for my Blog for a while…and after you read her take on the Gordon Brown Gaffe (from a Canadian perspective), you’ll understand why.
Elissa is the Director of Public Relations / Public Affairs for the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Ontario, so she knows her stuff, but it is her genuine and enthusiastic nature which makes her one of my favourite people to follow on Twitter.
So, without further ado, let’s get into it…
Open Mic Night For Gordon Brown by Elissa Freeman
We Canadians have a particular affinity for the Brits. Indeed, we whip ourselves into a frenzy when the Royals visit. And those of us who are old enough, still know the words to God Save The Queen. But no matter how loudly we sing, we realize that even God can’t save Prime Minister Gordon Brown.
In true Canadian style, we can’t help but feel a twinge of sympathy for Mr. Brown – and especially for his PR team. The Canadian morning shows were all abuzz about the verbal shot heard ‘round the world about calling Mrs. Gillian Duffy “a bigoted woman”, yet the tone was somewhat empathetic rather than an out-and-out gloat.
The Gordon Brown Gaffe reminds all PR pros that a minor slip in protocol can wreak havoc. The Gaffe falls under the most basic principles of preventative PR: nothing is ever off the record…especially when you’re attached to a live mic.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve chased one of my spokespeople down the corridor because we forgot to disengage the mic. It’s easy to forget, mind you; the cameraman wires up your spokesperson, there’s great concentration on the messages to be disseminated, the interview finishes and off you go.
The speed at which the most minor of details could derail a tightly reigned-in PR plan was frightening. The speed at which the crisis communications plan kicked into action was admirable. First, a media apology, then a personal apology, followed by a wrap-up statement with the press.
Personally, I would have wished that mic was still on during Mr. Brown’s 45-minute dressing down with the highly offended Mrs. Duffy. What was even more interesting? Mrs. Duffy was nowhere to be seen when the Prime Minister faced the press immediately thereafter. In a best case scenario, she should have been by his side, accepting his apology. Maybe that’s why one in four Brits didn’t find Mr. Brown’s apology as being genuine.
Try as we may to control the message, human frailty doesn’t allow a PR pro to have power over everything. In this case, a live mic could be the death knell for Gordon Brown’s re-election bid.
I hope you enjoyed Elissa’s take on what will probably go down as one of the most public gaffe’s in recent history.
In addition to the points she’s made above, the other thing that struck me about how this panned out was how the event was amplified by social media – five years ago YouTube was only a week old and Twitter didn’t exist – would this have be as scrutinized as heavily without the mass adoption of social media we now currently enjoy?
If you’d like to leave a comment, please drop it in the box below…but just remember, the whole world is watching…listening…reading… 😉