It is an unfortunate thing to get caught saying or doing something that is horrifically embarrassing. So is the case when Jesse Jackson made off-color comments about presidential hopeful Barack Obama during the taping of an interview. The comment was made between sets, when the good reverend was not aware that the microphone was on and was picking up every word he said. The comments that he made quickly traveled the media waves via video, blogs, chat rooms, discussion sites and even some folks’ living rooms! There were very few people not talking about what Jesse Jackson has said about Obama and even fewer that were not appalled by this man’s seemingly disregard and disrespect for another individual.
About a week or two after Rev. Jackson made those unfortunate comments about Senator Obama, staffers in his camp went right to work on damage control, attempting to shift the attention from Jackson by saying his “words were taken out of context”, or “he didn’t recall saying that.” However, anyone in a position of responsibility knows that you must be very careful when you’re in the public spotlight, by watching what you say, when you say it and to whom you say it. Leaders cannot afford to be loose cannons in their speech or deeds.
Quick-Thinking Media Relations Staff
One thing that Jesse Jackson’s media camp did somewhat effectively was in the way that they handled Mr. Jackson’s blurb. First off, they never allowed him to take responsibility for what he said as evidenced when he mentioned that his words were taken out of context. The next thing was offering a follow-up statement by saying that he fully supported Obama and that there were no ill feelings present with him. But what finally paid off for Jesse Jackson in attempting to prove that all is well in his political camp with he and Barack Obama was when through a recent interview where he offered glowing words of affirmation and support of the hopeful presidential candidate. He seemed to go above and beyond the expectations of amend-making by showing the two of them in alignment towards a common goal. He talked about how his support of Barack is unbiased and without reserve as this is an historical moment for the African-American race and for the nation as a whole.
What is interesting is how quickly things shifted from Jesse Jackson being the bad guy to Jesse Jackson being the comrade. Certainly, the whole idea of making nice wasn’t all Jackson’s idea, but his media relations strategist perhaps determined how much damage Jackson could do to his own political career if some type of communication or repair wasn’t done quickly to soothe stinging words. Jackson seemed to comply almost immediately. He has now shown a unified front with his political friend and instead of them being on opposite sides of the spectrum, they are now both on the same team.
Do Some Quick Clean-Up
Damage control is an issue that most every business has to perhaps deal with occasionally. It is quite frequently, if not often, that companies do or say something that is not ‘politically correct’ to say or can even be offensive. This is when it becomes necessary to step in and put out proverbial fires in order to offset any problems that the business or individual may encounter.
The media relations department of any major corporation or even that of an individual has the tricky job of fixing things that have gone awry or when trouble hits. A good media relations staff will show the organization an effective exit strategy on getting themselves out of an embarrassing or harmful situation and perhaps even offer methods or solutions that can avoid the issue coming up again. An ill-equipped media relations staff can make an already bad situation worse by not stepping in at the right time and offering solutions for an issue that could grow out of hand. If situations aren’t addressed immediately, problems that were perhaps minuscule can burgeon into uncontrollable issues. Imagine what would have happened if Jesse Jackson’s staff had not intervened when they did; his political career and any following that he had could have been further damaged or hampered by his unfortunate statement.
What would you have done if you were Jesse Jackson’s political media strategist? Was it wise to offer a follow-up so soon or should he have waited until the issue was addressed again? Perhaps Jesse Jackson realizes that if Barack Obama does in fact become the United States President, that he could help his own political career and that it would be in his best interest to be on his side politically. What do you think?
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