UPDATE 5/20 PM: I wrote this earlier today and just found out that the press conference is canceled and the PR firm has resigned. Here is the story in the Phoenix Biz Journal h/t to @barbinnebraska for the update.
For non-watchers I realize I’ve started in media res and you probably haven’t been following along, so here is video from the episode where Ramsey’s production team films what happens before, during and after the show at ABC Bakery Boutique & Bistro. To compound the problems caught on cameras, someone on their Facebook page started responding to criticism. Here is the Buzzfeed link about that. You will note that they have already taken the first step that politicians take when something terrible goes out on social media. “We were hacked!” Later they might change that message, see my section below, Social media “melt down” on Facebook.
I do not like “reality” TV, because I know that via the editing process you can change almost anything. These shows also have a certain standard arc they go though, all that differs are the characters and how they respond. This episode is different because Ramsey didn’t follow though on his standard,”Then we fixed things and it’s all better.” The reason he gives for breaking the format is that the owners would not listen to his advice.
Fixing a Meal vs. Fixing a Reputation
I was thinking about the reason I wanted to write about this story. As much fun as it is to watch people fighting, what I really want to look at is the rehabilitation process. Why? Because Dick Cheney. Because Mark Sanford. (Not to mention “wide stance” guy and “has sex with prostitutes while wearing a diaper” guy. )
The rehabilitation process is important because the main stream media will not fight it from happening. If they actively fought it that would make them partisian. The best they can do is, “he said, she said, the truth lies somewhere in the middle. ” The media doesn’t write the story, “Dick Cheney says, blank” which has been proved a lie.” Why would they? It’s not news. It’s history, everyone “knows” what happened. Meanwhile the RW media can push the new, “Dick Cheney was the hero we needed” story. History is written by whomever owns the media — and has a good spin team.
The other reason I want to watch this is because Elliot Spitzer. Because Antony Weiner. Because Jim McGreevey. But, and this is important, the rehabilitation of reputation is different for the left vs. the right. The public and the press have different expectations and actions following a scandal.
You see I’d LIKE to rehabilitate Elliot Spitzer. I’d like to rehabilitate Antony Weiner. I’d like to stop the rehabilitation of Dick Cheney and Mark Sanford.
Are You Prepared for the Elizabeth Warren Scandals?
I’m preparing for future scandals. I’m trying to help us know how to fight and then if we lose to rehabilitate people targeted by the right. I’m currently in love with Elizabeth Warren, she is standing up to Wall Street and if history is any guide Wall Street will strike back. Hard. Dirty hard. Clinton “Whitewater” hard. James O’Keefe faked videotape hard. Leaked identity of Valeria Plame hard.
Now I could advise Senator Warren to not do anything wrong, but she is an imperfect human and we have seen that scandals both real and manufactured are exploited to drive people out of office. But what I want to point out is that our media environment is very different and that WE need to understand it when scandal comes a knocking, both during the first stages and then to help with rehabilitation from real or manufactured scandals. I wish I could educate the MSM about these, but the best we can do it to remind them of times they were punked by the RW. “Hey, Jonathan Karl of ABC, what is the providence of that video/email? Has it been edited? By whom? Might they have an agenda? Do you have the whole story? Can you use Google and the phone before you run the story?”
I’ve worked with a lots of executives to help them with messages and dealing with the press, but they usually don’t reach Amy and Samy’s heights of self annihilation. I’ve been brought in after some big mistakes though and there are a couple of considerations. First up is understanding the personality of the company, organization and person and second is which deciding on which narrative you want to activate.
Amy’s Baking Company Bakery Boutique & Bistro Press Conference May 21, 2013
Based on the Phoenix Business Journal article I’m betting this will be their strategy.
1) Play the victim card. Gorden Ramsey is the bad guy, Amy and Samy are victims. They don’t have to do anything more than show clips of him screaming and swearing at other chefs from Hell’s Kitchen or his other American Kitchen Nightmare shows. The man can easily be shown as a frightening monster.
2) Line up supporters. An appeal to “the tribe” goes out. They will work to line up loyal customers to talk about their great experiences. These people will be made easily available to the press. The press might dig up just one former customer, but unless people are actively making themselves available, deadlines loom. Besides, in the face of happy customers, why search for unhappy ones? That is just “piling on” and at this point the press want to give her “a fair hearing” if they dig for bad stories they are being biased, and that is the sin that they never want to commit.
3) Work the “facts.” Note that I don’t say facts. So for example, lots of people were stunned when the owner pocketed the tips of the wait staff. They will point out that it was legal since they didn’t pay them as wait staff, but as hourly employees. However, one of the tricks is that you say even though what you did was legal, for appearances sake, you are going to change what you did. But remember, it was totally legal! (The press aren’t going to look for previous diners who felt that they were being defrauded. Are any diners going to sue for that? Nope. Legal matter closed. Nothing to see here folks move along.)
4) Social media “melt down” on Facebook. There are a lot of “social media guru’s” out there, but coping with the press takes a different skill. There are a few ways to go here.
A) Lie. Stick to the lie and keep lying. The good news is that the media will take you at your word and, because they don’t comment on cases, the FBI won’t comment either. And, they can also get away with a lie because nobody at Facebook is going to come forward and say, “Here is the IP address that these comments were coming from at this date and time. If they were hacked it was from the computer inside the house of Amy and Samy.” Nobody at the press conference are going to call them liars since they have no proof it was them. (What if Amy and Samy admit to the PR people they weren’t hacked? Do they counsel she stick with the lie? Maybe they think of themselves like a lawyer defending a guilty criminal. After all Amy and Samy are counting on the PR team to defend them and get them off the hook in the “court of public opinion.” Of course, there is another way but it might not fight the “I’m right no matter what you say.” personality of Amy.
B) Admit you weren’t hacked, “Yes it was us, but we were under severe emotional strain at the time, our business was being destroyed by Gordon Ramsey and Reddit and Yelpers.” Now I think they could finesse this, especially if they get Amy to cry on cue. “You don’t know what it is like watching your last six years go up on smoke because of mean internet comments! It will be very easy for the PR team to show the nasty comments at Reddit, members of the community can be can be very cruel to people they don’t like. They can also be very generous and supportive of others, but Amy’s actions and behaviors turned them off.
C) Play up “cyber-bully nastiness. She might say, “We got death threats! They said terrible things about us!” Using the death threat card is smart because there is always some idiot who can be found who will say something stupid like that and nobody asks to see the exact email/threat and asks if the FBI is following up on it. Often the wording is , ‘I hope you die.” or “You don’t deserve to live.’ rarely is it, ‘I’m going to come to your home and kill you.” All these comments work to switch the public’s perception of her from a bully to a victim. Then her responses were simply her standing up to the online bullies. Nobody likes bullies.
5) “The Marketplace decides” follow up story. There will be the follow up to the press conference, a whole week of dining where the people who can attend are screened. If the press bothered to ask who attended you would find friends, relatives, employees of the owners and the PR firm. Anyone who isn’t a fan will clearly be an enemy who is out to do no good and has a preconceived bias. We know that many Redditer’s will try and dine there and rate the food and service. Some might actively seek to create a fuss. Now if I was in charge of this phase of the rehabilitation I would first remind the press that anyone who says anything bad about the service or food is just doing it out of malice and to view their comments in that light. This will turn all diners into either, “with us or against us” so that even someone who claims to be “impartial” can’t be. The point is to discredit any criticism in advance. Once you have split up the dinners into these categories you have the classic “both sides” of the story, yet the negative side has an agenda! (As if the plus side doesn’t but we don’t question them and their providence for being there during the comeback week.)
All these Words are Making me Hungry Spocko. What about Dick Cheney and Mark Sanford’s Rehabilitation?
Now what can we learn from this as it relates to the Dick Cheney and Mark Sanford rehabilitation? One of the ways that the PR firm will want to control the story is to count on the speed of the media and the reluctance of old enemies to just get tired of fighting . They also know about the inability of the press to trust their own memories and truth. That means that in the ABC Bistro press conference there will be no new negative Gordon Ramsey comments. Ramsey might decide that he is better served by just staying out of the whole kerfuffle and saying, “They didn’t listen to me so I couldn’t help them, I stand by what I said and I wish them well. “ If he decides to keep harping on them it will play into the narrative, “See, Ramsey is a Bully!”
Also, you will not see the 100 employees dismissed during the last year of working at ABC Baking Boutique, Bistro and Brasserie. They is not an organizer getting all these people together to reinforce their experience that Samy and Amy are difficult to work with or that they often got complaints about the food. The absence of victims is a critical part of the success of the rehabilitation. The press can’t report on what they didn’t experience and if the people who experienced it don’t make it super easy to be found and are articulate, well too bad for them.
Imagine if we could have gotten Mark Sandford’s wife to come forward during his press conference and say, “This jerk cheated on me and he will cheat on the public too. He had the gall to break our marriage vows, lie about what he was doing and where he was spending time “hiking.” Do you think he won’t break his promises to the voters? Oh and he trespassed on our yard violating the restraining order, which I still have in force to this day. I don’t trust him in my house, you shouldn’t trust him in yours.” This didn’t happen because she might be hoping the father of her children could get another paying job. Maybe she had a divorce settlement that said she couldn’t talk about anything. I don’t know her reasons and I’m not the injured party, what I do know is that if there are not protestations from the victims to the press during the rehabilitation process, the media often want to give the person a shot at a ‘second act in American life”
Dick Cheney is Creating His own Reality TV show: The Shining Black Heart of Freedom – (coming this fall on Fox!)
Dick Cheney will go to Fox and his own media channels and the co-opted MSM. I wonder if anyone is tailing him during his rehabilitation press tour? They could demand that they get equal time to refute him. Maybe someone who wrote a book about Dick? Come on PR people at publishers! This is your shot to promote your book author! Sadly, not only won’t the MSM listen, they actively thwart people who might offer expert questions, saying, ” Trust me. I will ask tough questions!” People who think they could ask Dick Cheney tough questions don’t usually realize just how skilled Cheney is with his answers. He is also skilled in avoiding non-deferring media. Dick is creating his own “reality” for the country. One in which he is the hero and that what he did what was right, and that people who disagree with him are just wrong.
The impact to the nation of Amy and Samy’s rehabilitation is much lower than that of Cheney and Stanford, but if you watch you can learn how it is done. If I was personally injured by Amy or Samy I might act to thwart their rehabilitation, but I’m not. However I was, and am, injured by Dick Cheney’s actions. If you want to help the MSM and thwart his legacy, now is the time to actively bug the MSM covering him and his new documentary. Get some experts in the mix to educate the media about his outright lies and faulty assumptions he used to lead us to war.
Now I’m off to make some home made pizza!