Romney “Bullying” gives valuable lessons in Crisis Preparation
How fair is it that your high-school past is brought into the public eye some 47 years after it happened? Well it appears very important particularly if you are running for top office in the land.
As the New York Times reported “What you do, what you post, what you say matters — now, and for a long time to come.”
The day after President Obama endorsed gay marriage, Mitt Romney found himself responding to allegations that as a teenager he harassed a prep school classmate who later came out as gay. Romney has been working hard to contextualize the incident as an “a high-school prank.”
The Romney “bullying” story is also a very timely reminder of the importance of context in a crisis, and also that journalists will always issue-link – they will take what you say and/or do and then link that to something that has currency, is already being reported in the news. And this week Obama’s endorsement of gay marriage was the BIG context.
A crisis is always reported in the context of the LAST BIG thing that happened or the NEXT BIG thing. In Romney’s case the LAST big thing (in the context of gay rights) was him bullying a fellow high-school student, who later came out as being gay. The NEXT big thing is the inevitable debate and discussion about whether Romney is fit to be running for President of the United Sates. What does the “prank” say about his character? More so, what do we know now about this character – very little, perhaps now beginning with rich and a prankster cum bully?
Apart from this inevitable fall-out from the “bullying” story, the Cranbrook story, as the New York Times says, is also a” measure of how much social attitudes have shifted since Mr. Romney’s youth.” Back in the mid ‘60’s at the all-boys school, pranks were tolerated with “boys-will-be-boys indulgence.” The term “bullying” was decades away from being a subject for assemblies and school psychologists.
- Your past will always come back to haunt you particularly in a crisis, so know where the skeletons are and plan accordingly!
- Get in front of the story – President Obama wrote a book about this life and childhood so we knew about his “skeletons” well in advance of his run for President.
- Be prepared for issue-linking – all media, new and old, will apply this rule in a crisis.
- We human beings love to gossip so when issues of “value” come up we will share our opinions widely – be prepared and know the “hot” button issues in advance and have a plan.
- Have an effective, time-sensitive listening and monitoring system so that you can act fast in crisis.
Highly Effective Crisis Management