Friday, September 24, 2010


This week's perspective from Joe Chidley:

In a recent Globe and Mail column, Bruce Dowbiggin provided a good analysis an obit story gone very wrong. Former NHL coach Pat Burns has been battling cancer for a while now, and in mid-September a wire service ran a story saying his condition had worsened severely. Then Cliff Fletcher, an exec with the Maple Leafs, told some reporters that he had heard Burns passed away. The Toronto Star’s Damien Cox then tweets the “news” on his Twitter account. And then the story goes viral. Some, not all, radio and wires services run with it. But as Dowbiggin tells it, a couple hours later “Burns himself phoned TSN’s Bob McKenzie … to say he was out shopping, not checking out.” Whoops. In cases like this—whether you’ve fouled up in reporting or in talking about your company or in producing a faulty product or whatever—the rule of thumb is to ‘fess up to your mistake, and then communicate clearly what you plan to do to prevent cock-ups in future. Dowbiggin points to the case of Vancouver radio host Ray Ferraro , who admitted he made an embarrassing error and should have checked his sources, and apologized. Done deal—everyone makes mistakes. But the columnist also points to the Star’s Cox, who called the gaffe “an honest mistake” on the part of Fletcher (not himself)—not good enough, to Dowbiggin, who rightly says the real culprit is the immediacy-driven pressure cooker of social media and today’s newsrooms. That reality, of course, just makes checking facts—and being prompt in acknowledging and correcting mistakes—all the more important. So is applying the same rules to yourself as you would to anyone else, hard as that maybe. Otherwise, your credibility—and your organization’s—could well become fodder for tomorrow’s obituary page.


This week's perspective from Bob Reid:

I haven’t written anything about Christine O’Donnell, the U.S. Senate nominee from Delaware, and I wouldn’t usually advocate the short-notice cancelation of a round of high-profile media interviews, so let’s deal with both, shall we? O’Donnell, a Republican who has become the fledgling Tea Party’s latest dreamboat, has rocketed to media stardom since pulling off an upset win – and for being the focus of a treasure trove of quotes from archival media interviews that even Karl Rove has deemed “a lot of nutty things.” From calling homosexuality “an identity disorder” to denouncing condom use, masturbation and lying even if it would have saved someone from the Holocaust, my personal favourite is from a never-aired (?!) 1999 episode of “Politically Incorrect” in which she confessed to Bill Maher that she had “dabbled in witchcraft … but was careful to stress that she never actually joined a coven. Suddenly, talking about whether you “inhaled” just ain’t edgy anymore. But the play I’m calling a Touchdown is her short-notice decision to cancel a round of major network TV interviews originally scheduled for this weekend. Her camp is claiming conflicts with some must-attend events in her home state, but I don’t think I’m out on a limb by suggesting she took the advice of someone who convinced her that going through with the spots would be a very, very bad idea. The Sunday morning shows are the centre ring of U.S. political debate. She would be grilled hard for a long list of comments and other questions about use of campaign funds and a variety of other stuff – and by all indications, she wouldn’t be able to hack it. Taking some time out of the limelight and going through intensive media coaching would be a very wise course of action, one which I suspect she is following. Sure, O”Donnell is taking flack for the cancelations, but I think that’s short term pain for … well, we’ll see how she does when she finally does make the rounds. But right now, it’s the right call.

Friday, September 17, 2010


This week's perspective from Bob Reid:

I actually feel sympathy for Premier Dalton McGuinty on the whole cell-phones-in-the classroom controversy he found himself in the midst of this week. He was asked about the issue by reporters, after the Toronto District School Board indicated it might re-think its outright ban on the use of mobile phones by kids in class. To his credit, McGuinty didn’t take a position on it one way or the other, saying instead that it might be something worth considering if they can be a useful educational tool and not a distraction. However, the Premier should have known better. Even musing about a controversial issue can land you right smack in the middle of it, and that’s exactly what happened – with the shorthand fast becoming that McGuinty was in favour of ending the ban. Sometimes musing about possibilities can be a useful way for politicians to start a debate or to trial-balloon an idea; but this was just an avoidable mis-step.


This week's perspective from Bob Reid:

Ever since it was announced that Quebecor Media Inc. wanted to launch a new national news & current affairs channel, it has been a flashpoint issue for some on the left. They immediately labeled SUN TV “Fox News North,” and have used every opportunity to denounce the notion of another source of opinion on Canadian television. So it really wasn’t surprising that Kory Teneycke, who took on the job of building, staffing and launching the new channel, became such a lightning rod for said critics’ ire. Teneycke became a well-known right of centre political voice during his tenure as Prime Minister Stephen Harper ’s director of communications, and the attacks against him and SUN TV became progressively more visceral as time went by. So it was not very surprising yet really very commendable that Tenycke would step down this week, saying that his continued involvement in the project would only "further inflame" the controversy. He’s right. And he did the right thing. We’ve noted before that if your tactics become the story, then you’ve lost your ability to tell the story you want to get out there. Ditto if, as in this case, the messenger overwhelms the message. It remains to be seen whether, by taking himself out of the equation, Teneycke will be giving SUN TV a less rocky ride. But what is for sure is the fact that he really had little choice but to try.

Friday, September 10, 2010


One of the fundamentals we cover in our Veritas Media Coaching sessions is the importance of consistency of message among an organization’s spokespeople. So it was more than a bit odd to see a photo of several Quebec Conservative MPs mugging for the cameras sporting old Quebec Nordiques NHL sweaters, juxtaposed against their boss, Prime Minister Stephen Harper, saying that his government does not and will not fund NHL franchises. Talk about a mixed message. At issue is the potential for federal funding for a new, NHL-calibre arena in Quebec City, the former home of the Nordiques and crucial ground for the Conservatives in the pending federal election. The city and province have announced financial support for the new venue, and there is pressure on the feds to follow suit as an infrastructure project – something the Harper government has done on countless occasions. So why the massive disconnect between the very clear signal that the MPs sent with their photo-op and the back-stopping which followed from the PM and his officials? Especially when numerous other cities have unsuccessfully sought federal bucks for their own sports palace plans? Fumble