06 November 2013

This isn't crisis PR. It's just a crisis.

Rob Ford's story is a lot of things, but it's not a "PR crisis." It's much worse.

I've had public-sector clients that have high profiles in their communities.  People with serious addictions to drugs and alcohol, and who broke the law.  People with very high opinions of themselves. I've seen clients maintain their "functionality" through a reasonably complex system of lies, misdirection, cover-ups, and intimidation.

I've seen seemingly insignificant facts emerge that set events in motion and ultimately lead to a person's public (and private) downfall.   I've seen people deny everything at first - even to me, even to the lawyers on his team.  Then I've seen clients go silent, refusing to answer any questions, as investigators do their jobs. Then I've seen them make a series of small, tactical admissions as a last resort, all while trying to position themselves as victim or even hero.

I've seen them insulate themselves with sycophants and gullible marks.  I've been in the conversations where it's everyone else who's wrong and it's my enemies are doing this because they can't bring me down any other way.

I've seen clients in this situation suddenly decide to hold on-camera interviews over my protests and without any preparation. I've seen them insist it's "time to move on from this," thinking the embarrassment of a partial, tactical admission is sufficient accountability. And even as the truth becomes more obvious, even as everyone sees that resignations are imminent and criminal convictions are almost certain, I've seen people search feverishly for that one lie, that one angle, that one narrative that "fixes" everything. They can't help it.

I've seen this all unfold up close and I've thought, "this is not going to end well."  And it doesn't.

Rob Ford's story isn't going to end well.

The last thing Ford should worry about right now is his image. He can't afford to worry about his job.  If Ford's family, colleagues, or staff cared about him they'd get him out of City Hall and into a hospital.

Sometimes the best PR advice is to forget about PR for a while.

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