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by spocko

UPDATED: I was right! Spin to Win: How the Current Christie Crisis Will Be Managed

7:18 pm in Uncategorized by spocko

UPDATE: Saturday 2/1/2014 6:45 PST Below, in an article I wrote on January 31, I predicted actions that the Christie communications team will take. I was insanely accurate. Politico has as story “Chris Christie attacks N.Y. Times, David Wildstein” in which they link to a email where Christie’s office attacks Wildstein, his motivation and his backers. The letter was sent to surrogates who “leaked” to Politico.

Hilariously they go back to his high school to attack his character! Talk about your permanent record!

In David Wildstein’s past, people and newspaper accounts have described him as “tumultuous” and someone who “made moves that were not productive.”

  • As a 16-year-old kid, he sued over a local school board election.
  • He was publicly accused by his high school social studies teacher of deceptive behavior.
  • He had a controversial tenure as Mayor of Livingston
  • He was an anonymous blogger known as Wally Edge
  • He had a strange habit of registering web addresses for other people’s names without telling them
Read the letter and see how correct I was. It’s almost like I traveled into the future.

If I was the new communications director for Chris Christie I would NOT advise him to “come clean” further and apologize, I would go on the attack. Attack. Attack. Attack. He needs to attack Wildstein, his character, motivations and his backers or else he will alienate his base who LIKE that Christie is a fighter.  Alternatively the comms director can go full Baghdad Bob to the media.

I’ve been an adviser to a lot people on messaging to the media. Before I work with them I ask them a lot of questions to try and understand their attitudes and temperaments toward the media or the audiences they are addressing.

People’s attitudes can guide the strategy I suggest. If they aren’t comfortable with the strategy they will execute poorly. I can’t change a mild mannered technologist into a controversy generating fighter unless they have that in them.  People who have the, “If they only knew the truth” attitude will respond differently than people who have a, “They are out to get us!” attitude. With one you keep communicating as much info as possible, with the other you stonewall and then go on the attack.

After the direct attack, the next step will be to get others to question the integrity and motivations of Wildstein. These attacks will come from surrogates who are “Just asking questions…”

Expect personal smears about Wildstein to leak. 

Expect questions about who is backing him. ”Is this being orchestrated by the Democrats? Republican opponents? Who is paying for his high-powered lawyers?”

Expect questions about what Wildstein wants in return for not revealing everything. “This is public blackmail. He wants a pay off! He won’t reveal anything new.Mark my words, Wildstein doesn’t have squat! He’s blackmailing the governor with a bluff! ”

The Christie administration have worked through several stages of the Right Wing media communications play book by now.

1) Denial. The Sergeant Schultz defense. “I know nothing! Nothing!”
2) Diminish. “It’s no big deal. It’s a joke. The media are blowing this up.”
3) Distance. Besides firing some people, they talk like they barely know them. They try to go back in time as if they never were tight.
4) Disclosure. That was the first press conference. That was what was supposed to shut the whole thing down. Answer all questions.

With the most recent revelation, “Ex-Port Authority staffer says he can prove Christie knew about lane closures” you will see the Governor’s office running through the cycle again. They have already gotten a response from the governors office. Link here (BTW, I love the use of twitter images to link to a photo of lots of text! 140 character limit, be damned!)

You will note that the communications coming out of the Governors office will now be very precise with timing words. This might seem like hair splitting but this case could turn on the meaning of the word, “previously.”  The court of public opinion can get sloppy, but the actual court isn’t, specific words are chosen for a reason.  Lawyers are going to be vetting every single word said on this case from now on. I expect that if Christie talks about this again he will use the Rummy method to answer questions.

The Rummy Method, which I named after how Donald Rumsfeld responded to questions, has the person appear to be candid with the media up front. It has the person asking and answering their own questions, giving the illusion that the issue is dealt with.

“Am I sorry this happened? Yes. Do I wish I had known earlier? You bet. Did I know earlier than the day I heard it on the news? I did not. But I can’t stop people from making false statements about what I knew and when I knew it.”

Rummy also was able to be very precise in response to sloppy paraphrased questions.  The only way to beat the Rummy Method was for reporters to ask question as if they were prosecutors, not journalists. The Rummy technique also has the benefit of shutting down follow up questions.

If I was a journalist in a future Christie press conference I would design questions like a prosecutor trying to figure out what laws were broken and what it would take to prove it.  I would work with a prosecuting attorney to design follow up questions like cross examination questions. Then I would get one or two journalists to work this strategy with me.  The reason this is necessary is that with one reporter asking these questions it looks like they are badgering the “witness” and aren’t sharing the press conference time.  With two or three working together it looks like everyone has similar questions and his answers aren’t cutting it for anyone.  Also, studies have shown that the sympathy moves from the questioner to the person being questioned after three though questions in a row where the answer didn’t change.

Finally, here is something else you might see, Christie talking about how he was, “saddened and disappointed” with Wildstein’s accusations and he can understand why he would misconstrue information, but the bottom line is that they were the people responsible. Christie will remind people that he fired them for their incorrect actions they are now disgruntled former employees and we all know how untrustworthy they are. Then he will tell everyone “we need to move on with the business of running this great state.”

Either this is how it will unfold or Christie will resign.

Tune in next week. Same bat time! Same bat channel!

by spocko

What Wolf and You Can Learn from the Irish Press for the GOP Debate

6:30 pm in Uncategorized by spocko

At the GOP debate on Thursday will Wolf Blitzer ask Mitt, Newt, Rick or Ron any question with the tenaciousness we see on display in this video at a European Central Bank press-conference in Ireland?

I doubt it, but it could happen. It should happen. After all, Blitzer is an Emmy award-winning anchor for CNN and is also a recipient of the Peabody award for his Hurricane Katrina coverage, the Alfred I. duPont Award for his coverage of the tsunami disaster in Southeast Asia and an Edward R. Murrow Award for CNN’s September 11 coverage.  Let’s hear his own words of advice to CNN iReporters (their citizen journalist program) on asking questions:

Q: What tips do you have for getting people to get comfortable and open up?

A: My rule of thumb is to be polite but firm in asking the questions and trying to make sure I get the answers.

Q: What is the one piece of advice you wish you were taught about interviewing that you had to learn on your own?

A: The most important thing is to listen to the answer and follow up when appropriate.

Why shouldn’t we expect Wolf to listen to the answers and follow up? After all, the man is paid two million dollars a year by CNN. We don’t expect it because the people who pay him and selected him for this moderator position don’t really want journalism. Read the rest of this entry →

by spocko

Dear Irena Briganti: Anyone Ever Fired for On-Screen Errors at Fox?

5:02 pm in Uncategorized by spocko

The information coming out of Fox News is often misleading or clearly incorrect. People ask me, “Spocko, is there anything we can do about this? Can’t the FCC do anything? What about the FTC and truth in advertising laws?”

How can Fox employees get away with calling themselves journalists when they are acting more like lobbyists or employees of a PR firm?

Are there every any negative consequences for people who intentionally lie while calling themselves journalists?  Can’t some groups who give credentials for being “the press” take them away? Why should Fox get a higher level of protection from libel than other corporations? Is having a tagline, “Fair and Balanced” and the word “News” in your logo all it takes? (If so I’m launching Spocko’s Brain News Network with the tagline, “Vulcans Never Bluff.”)

Why do they get all the benefits of being the press without any of the responsibilities?

I had some of these questions myself so when Fox News recently broadcast a chart that was clearly wrong (but wrong in a way that made Obama look bad) I decided to ask them of the SVP of media relations at Fox News.

Here is my letter.

Irena Briganti, Senior Vice President
Media Relations Fox News

Dear Ms. Briganti:

On Monday December 12, 2011, Fox News Network, L.L.C., broadcast a chart entitled Unemployment Rate Under President Obama. The source was listed as the 2011 Bureau of Labor Statistics. Numerous writers have pointed out the visual errors in this chart (link) and called into question whether they were genuine mistakes or intentional efforts to mislead.

I would like to hear your official statement about this chart and its errors; and how it came to be created and broadcast. I would also like to know if there will be any consequences for the people who created and aired this chart. Read the rest of this entry →