Here’s a simple crisis PR and media training principle to follow when responding to media inquiries: every answer must avoid attracting further inquiries. Right now, Congressman Aaron Schock’s re-election campaign would do well to add this rule to its press strategies.
Schock’s campaign got dinged when the story broke that campaign contributions were used to pay for luxury hotels, town car service, antique stores (seriously, on a campaign?), and concerts. While such expenditures are legal, the perception this carries – particularly for a public servant – doesn’t fit for positive headlines.
That’s where good media training is essential in responding to inevitable reporter phone calls. And, that’s why the campaign manager’s justification of the lavish expenses – “You can’t have the typical cocktail receptions at all the typical places in Washington that everyone has already done” – is a bad approach to handling the PR crisis. Why?
First, the campaign’s response doesn’t address the issue at hand. The media narrative of politicians abusing money so easily completes itself. That’s the big mistake Schock’s campaign is making in its press strategy.
Second (stop us if you heard this before), the response doesn’t address the issue at hand! Rather, the campaign is effectively saying, “well everyone else is a bad actor, so why pick on us?” Your crisis management strategy should provide you the opportunity to assert control over the media narrative instead of saying there’s nothing you – or anyone else – can do about the bad situation.
A better response? Any variation of “these expenditures are under review and Aaron will make sure the campaign will vet future campaign expenses more carefully.” That effectively buys time for your next move and halts permutations of the story that can eclipse the savviest of campaign spokespeople.