Could you imagine any CEO or corporate communications department bungling things as badly as the White House has with its Hurricane Katrina missteps? Yesterday’s videotapes clearly showed the president being briefed of Katrina’s potential damage prior to the storm. Yet, typically, the White House issued a statement suggesting "people shouldn’t read too much into the videotape." Talk about straining credulity.
Happily, corporate boards are becoming much more proactive when the CEO refuses to communicate in times of crisis (think Radio Shack). But, as we know, there is no board to step in and advise, cajole or counsel the President.
Whether it’s the war, the Dubai port scandal, the Cheney shooting or, now, the Katrina controversy, this administration clearly believes less is more when it comes to communication.
Crisis communications 101 calls for swift, consistent messaging and, if appropriate, to admit fault. For whatever reason, "43" and team cannot or will not admit fault.
So, I ask other communicators, how would you counsel a CEO who will not accept responsibility for her or his actions? Short of resigning, there’s not much we can do. Which is why I’m so glad to see boards of directors becoming more aggressive in safeguarding the health and well-being of an organization.
Maybe some day some enterprising congressman will introduce legislation calling for an executive board to oversee the President and, in situations like the ones mentioned above, intervene and do the right thing? One can always hope…
Aside from the general population, the real losers in the Oval Office stonewalling are the Republicans running in the upcoming Mid-term elections. It’s tough enough to win without also having to distance oneself from what is rapidly becoming one of the least popular administrations in U.S. history.