Saturday, April 26, 2014

PC Party of Alberta–Free Optics Management Advice

Reality must take precedence over public relations, for nature cannot be fooled. - Richard P. Feynman

Back in early March I wrote a blog post entitled The Trojan Horse of the 21st Century where I mused about how one organization could infiltrate another and through the use of this mole, bring down the entire organization.

It was a carefully worded blog post but some clever readers were able to see through it and saw that I was actually referencing the trials and tribulations of former Premier Redford and the PC Party’s inability to gain control over the messaging and optics of a Premier who had lost touch with her caucus and the people of Alberta.

When former Premier Redford requested earlier this week that her pay not be docked while she was absent from the Alberta Legislature, there was much conjecture (and some indignation) about the nature and authenticity of her illness (and possibly her audacity if the request was inappropriate).

However, as rumors circulate today that she has spent the last week in Palm Springs (a locale that has gotten her into trouble before), rabid reporters and naysayers are quick to come forward to cry foul that once again, she has pulled the wool over the eyes of the citizens.

As the story develops, I am reminded of my conjecture in the previously noted blog post that one or more of the following seem to be present when it comes to managing public optics:

  1. the PC Party and/or Ms. Redford feel that they do not need to manage the message (ego or overconfidence)
  2. the PC Party and/or Ms. Redford do not know how to manage the message (incompetence or inexperience)
  3. the PC Party and/or Ms. Redford discover that the message has some inconvenient or problematic details in it and therefore they avoid it (evasive)
  4. someone in the PC Party and/or Ms. Redford choose to wilfully not manage the message for reasons of ulterior motive (sabotage).

Here’s some free consulting advice for the PC Party.

If former Premier Redford needs to take time off for stress recovery (who wouldn’t be staggered by the public humiliation she has faced regardless of whether warranted or not), have someone face reporters and say something like this:

Former Premier Redford will be taking some time off to recover from a very difficult time for her and her family.  She may be seen at her location in Palm Springs as she seeks to avoid prying eyes and the press during this time of healing.  She asks that the press respect her request for privacy for her and her family.

It’s short, sweet, to the point and kills any sensationalism that may arise from being spotted in Palm Springs, a place she has been known to frequent in the past at the taxpayer’s expense.

It also assures her of privacy if in fact she needs time to heal from the political roller coaster of recent months.

The Bottom Line

Never given anyone an excuse or an opportunity to create sensationalism or create a message on your behalf.  Any story of her being spotted in Palm Springs would be considered no story at best and possibly an unfair or unjust intrusion of privacy if the optics had been proactively, effectively managed.

When it comes to optics management, one needs to decide:

Do I want to control the message as to how I am perceived or do I wait for others to invent a message on my behalf?

After all, modern media abhors an information vacuum and is quite content to do what it takes to find or invent a message on your behalf if you have no interest or ability to promote one of your own.

It is also often true that any message invented on your behalf is likely to be less accurate, more embarrassing and more damaging than had the message been proactively managed since the creation of such a message often brings other hidden, private or embarrassing elements into the light of day.

Until someone owns the message and manages the optics better within the PC Party, I am left to wonder which of the previously mentioned reasons for lack of optics management is the more appropriate one. 

As for those who believe that their current strategy and execution is fine just the way it is, well … better take a quick survey of the political landscape and then ask if the results and the beliefs are in alignment.

The alignment doesn’t look very strong from my perspective.

What do you think?

In service and servanthood,


Addendum – When You Think It Can’t Get Worse – April 26, 2014

Over the course of the last couple of weeks, a number of people, including MLAs (not just PC Party members), Legislature insiders and other people have shared a number of details with me that are disturbing, disruptive, salacious and sad.

While the details of those sharings will never be revealed here, it is a reminder to me that there are a lot of people who worry about the feelings of others, a lot of people who will do whatever it takes to undermine others personally and professionally (not caring who gets hurt in the process) and a lot of people who fear that they will be inadvertently burned should certain details be revealed.

I tweeted the following 24 hours before the current issues broke in the media and I was soundly thumped by some Party faithful who said that they totally disagreed.


Today the same critics of my tweet were silent.

I wonder if they are aware of what the next unmanaged message might produce or where the next difficulty will originate from.

I wonder if they care.

Time will tell.

Hopefully too many people won’t be hurt in the process of learning the answer because when the dirt flies, the innocent are just as liable to be hurt as the guilty.

And that is what is most unfair of all.

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