Yesterday, we were presented with one of the oddest PR outreach strategies I can recall. Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich decided to forgo attending that pesky impeachment trial going on in Springfield, and instead decided to drop in and chat with the ladies on “The View,” allowing Joy Behr to tousle his strangely-famous hair, and beg him to do his Nixon “I am not a crook” impression (which, I suppose thank heaven for small favors, he did not do). This followed his morning appearance sitting across from Diane Sawyer on “Good Morning America.”
I suppose the governor is feeling somewhat persecuted in his home state, but that doesn’t really explain what he hopes to gain from this rather unusual strategy of ignoring a trial and instead going to the national networks. When you consider that the audience for these shows is predominantly made up of people outside of Illinois, what could possibly be the objective for this outreach strategy? It certainly isn’t endearing him to those largely responsible for deciding his fate. To use a much overused phrase in PR: he doesn’t appear to be “taking things seriously.”
This is the curious pathology of some in the public eye. When cornered (usually by actions of their own doing) they attempt to charm their way out of a situation. It rarely works.
The governor’s potty mouth, his clear and unequivocal statements concerning the matter in which he finds himself in hot water, and his apparent blatant disregard for the process going on in Springfield all contribute to what appears to me to be a total lack of understanding of the seriousness of his situation.
Taking his case to the talk-show circuit doesn’t appear to me to be helping his case–it seems more baffling than anything else. If it’s an attempt to garner more favorable press, I have to wonder if there is really much difference in coverage that implies: “the governor has done something that is likely illegal” to coverage that implies “he’s completely off his rocker.” While it does change the subject matter of the coverage, is that really an improvement? That strategy might work for off-balance Hollywood starlets, but shouldn’t we expect more serious treatment from elected officials? Or is changing the topic of the coverage sufficient in an effort to develop a more sympathetic persona while looking to the likelihood of the event of a very public criminal trial?
It is perhaps a result of our more interconnected society that a governor feels the need to go beyond the borders of the state that he represents to mitigate the damage done. As local coverage is now accessible worldwide, perhaps the damage control needs to be also.