I used to work for an ad agency who loved to use the expression ‘stimulus: response.’
He especially loved to trot it out in new business meetings. He’d set it up by showing a clip depicting a sweaty, shifty-eyed Richard M. Nixon saying, “I am not a crook.”
The CEO would painstakingly explain that, while Nixon was trying to reassure Americans that he hadn’t laundered $1 million in hush money to keep E. Howard Hunt & Co., quiet about the White House’s direct involvement in the Watergate break-in, the word crook had, instead, elicited the exact opposite response in peoples’ minds.
The CEO would conclude by saying stimulus: response was key to any effective advertising and was carefully considered when we crafted the brilliant creative about to be unveiled.
I raise this rather ancient positioning & branding anecdote because White House Spokesperson, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, committed nearly the exact same stimulus: response mistake as Nixon did when, in answering reporters’ questions in today’s post-Comey hearing “gaggle”, she said, “President Trump is not a liar.”
Bad. Sad. Pathetic.
A spokesperson, any spokesperson, is trained to never, ever, repeat a reporter’s negative question. Why? Because it’s almost guaranteed to become a headline or “call out” in any subsequent coverage.
Huckabee Sanders should have been mindful of the time-worn journalistic expression, “If it bleeds, it leads.”
I’m not qualified to rate the performance of the current administration, but I am more than a tad credentialed to critique the verbals and non-verbals of White House Spokespeople such as Huckabee Sanders and Sean “Where is he now?” Spicer. In my opinion each has set new lows in terms of transparency and common decency in their dealings with the Fourth Estate.
And, now, with her regrettable words, Huckabee Sanders has armed my long-retired CEO with an update for his stimulus: response lectures (which I can almost guarantee he is still serving up to some poor, unsuspecting soul in the wilds of Durango, Colorado).
Today, Huckabee Sanders learned what so many seem to forget: Those who ignore the mistakes of the past are bound to repeat them.