10 November 2005

and the strangest things seem suddenly normal...[updated]

Today was one of those days where everything in the world seemed to burst straight out of Really Goofy Land.

One of those things was a CBC radio interview with John Efford about his health problems and recent calls for his resignation.

The bizarre part was that Efford's approach to the whole business was the same as some of those of the Conservative persuasion who blame the news media for the party's political problems.

John Efford and Liam O'Brien sharing the same headspace.

I shudder at the thought.

Anyway, Efford criticized news media for carrying stories about his health woes.

From a communications perspective, this makes just the latest of a serious of blunders by Efford when dealing with the personal attacks on him.

And here's what's wrong with his approach.

First of all, it is factually incorrect. The news media are not attacking John Boy. They are reporting other people's attacks, as they are likely to do given that controversy in politics is a big source of news copy. His credibility is not helped.

Second, John's attacks will win him no sympathizers among reporters who - despite Liam O'Brien's jaundiced view of his old trade are not universally or even generally so devoid of ethical beliefs that will knife anyone they "don't like".

Reporters are a conduit to supporters and potential supporters. They are also human so if you slag them off needlessly or pointlessly, all you do is ensure that the next coverage will show you warts and all. Reporters don't need to fabricate things or spin stories, although as Mulroney's old communications director claimed in a book, it is commonplace.

Nope. All they really have to do is report factually and accurately on your next cock-up, regardless of who you are.

Ask Brian Tobin about pissing off reporters needlessly and where it gets you.

John needed reporters to help counteract some of the partisan attacks being made on him. Instead, he just added to his woes.

Third, if you are defending yourself at least shoot in the right direction. General Custer may have been surrounded and may have died in the battle at the Little Big Horn.

Odds are good, though, that he and his troopers were shooting at the Indians around them, rather than say, at the ground or up in the sky.

This sort of stupidity - and that's really all it is - just makes you even less credible among a whole range of people that you are actually trying to win to your side.

Problem the Fourth is that Efford did the interview from Florida where he has retreated on doctor's orders in order to deal with his medical problems.

Now don't be surprised if the people taking shots at John knew full-well that he was in Florida and took full advantage of this fact to push their story when it would look the worst for Efford.

But it really just plays into their hands to respond from the sunny south, especially when the timing is so freakin' obvious.

The alternative? Take some preventive action by making it clear he was taking advantage of the little break while the Commons isn't in session to grab a bit of down time. That works better if, in the weeks before hand, local media get sick of hearing from Efford on anything and everything he can talk about to make sure people know he is on the job and doing just fine, thanks.

There are ways to handle things and not ways to handle things.

But personally, today seemed like a day in which the strange idea of O'Brien being a Connie seemed not only plausible but real.

[Update: Here's a link to a Liberal blog calling for Efford's resignation. Teensy weensy print. Big message]