A word about Jean Pelletier

January 12, 2009

So former Jean Chrétien Chief of Staff Jean Pelletier is dead.

It is traditional to say something nice about the deceased, so here goes: I really liked his relationship with the media.

The guy spent 12 years as Mayor of Quebec City, a position that requires a lot of public exposure. He gives hundreds of media interviews.

Then he’s drafted by Chrétien to be his Chief-of-Staff – he closes up like an clam and disappears from public view. He stays away from reporters, he doesn’t leak. He doesn’t badmouth anybody from his own party either, which is a nice contrast from the curious brand of political operators the Liberals currently employ.

If Jean Pelletier merely disliked you, you would never hear about it – and certainly not from somebody else. But if you screwed up, the only noise coming from Pelletier’s office would be the sound of a swiftly falling axe blade (and then it would be too late). No smear campaign, no wink-wink-nudge-nudge with reporters, no character assassination by anonymous sources.

I met the man once at a social function, years ago. He took the time to talk and be kind to me even though I was a nobody (still am). Perhaps he disliked me, but kept it to himself. So I guess what they say about him being a gentleman is true.

Further reading: Paul Wells’ comments on his blog.


Sarah Palin had to build on her strengths, not her weaknesses

December 23, 2008

Sarah Palin regrets not doing more interviews. This from CNN, mercifully selecting the good parts of a horrible interview Palin gave to conservative blog Human Events.

I was not allowed to do very many interviews, and the interviews that I did were not necessarily those I would have chosen. (…) But if I would have been in charge, I would have wanted to speak to more reporters because that’s how you get your message out to the electorate.

Uh? Ms. Palin got enormous news coverage. If anything, Americans got over-exposed to her message.

You prepare. You make a few interviews. If you do well, you prep some more and get more media. That’s how you build credibility through media relations. In Palin’s case, she struggled through interviews she couldn’t seem to be able to prepare for. It was painful to watch.

Her speeches were a much better vehicle to raise the quality of her public profile. You work with the speechwriters. You rehearse. You get the people cheering and give good clips to the camera. If it works (and it did, up to a point) you do more speeches.

McCain’s handlers used the right strategy. You build on your strengths, not your weaknesses.

Government of Canada wins award at important environment conference

December 8, 2008

While the Canadian Parliament lockout continues, Environment Minister Jim Prentice is in Poznan (Poland), spinning his way through the latest round of negotiations on climate change. Canada was awarded a Fossil of the Day Award (2nd place) on Friday, for aggressive back-pedalling on its commitments. Unfortunately, Mr. Prentice couldn’t make it to the awards ceremony…

Way to go, Minister Prentice. Let’s assume this is only the first of a long list of awards you plan to earn as Canada’s new Environment Minister.

Economic update leak a way to distract from deficit?

November 27, 2008

The big leak about this afternoon’s economic update is that the government will eliminate the $27-million subsidy to political parties. “Sources” have been busy propagating the news yesterday to as many major media outlets as they could (but not Maclean’s bloggers apparently – theys must be pissed).

If this little maneuver comes from the flacks at the Prime Minister’s Office (Tory Teneyke and the gang), and and it probably does, the question is why.

Well, they know it’s going to be controversial, but probably fairly popular. Everybody will suffer, why not those dastardly politicians? It’s probably difficult for folks to accept the argument that this would effectively lead to a single-party system for a little while, the elusive “permanent majority” as they say down south.

I bet the leak is all about the deficit. That is what the newspapers would normally focus on this morning – the threat of a multi-billion deficit that may take at least 24 months to get rid of.

In the long winter nights that are coming to Ottawa’s drinking establishments, perhaps the Conservative flacks will tell the tale of how they eclipsed a $5-billion deficit with a $27-million cut.

WAS-I-EVER-WRONG UPDATE: No deficit after all. So this morning’s leak wasn’t about covering that up, it was about getting the political funding thing covered in the morning, so that precious TV time tonight would focus more on other aspects of the announcement – mostly, the fact that they don’t intend to run a deficit. A quick look at the early coverage indicates that it is indeed the case. It’s easy to do good PR when you have good material to work from.

Government report outed by blogger

August 21, 2008

Readers of this blog might remember how disgusted I was when the government buried its how report on the vulnerability of Canadians to climate change. Even worse, the document is only available on request, one chapter at a time if you want it by email.

On its front page this morning, the Ottawa Citizen points out that one blogger went further than just getting pissed: “Miguel Tremblay” at ptaff.ca got all the chapters sent to him, assembled them all nice and tight (even in conformity with the federal government’s electronic document naming conventions, s’il-vous-plaît) and posted the whole thing on his blog, in both languages.

Health Canada’s chief flack’s excuse that the document is too large to put on the web doesn’t fly. There’s plenty of large reports on government sites, including one just as large right here (see “The power of volunteers” report). Breaking it down in more manageable chunks was also an option.

Breaking news: Traditional media not being killed by blogs

July 20, 2008

The good professor is right. There is much unsupported hype about new social media taking over the role (and the audience) of traditional newspapers, radio and TV. Sure the media will change (is changing now actually) as a result of new information techs, but it’s not likely to crumble anytime soon.

Not to say that as PR professionals we should ignore social media. But for many of us, “mass media” (and not media by the masses) remain the focus of our efforts.

PR failure at Toronto’s GO Transit

July 14, 2008

This is not good…

The Toronto Star reports auto parts thieves help themselves with impunity at GO Transit’s popular Park-and-Go day parking lots. GO’s Managing Director shrugs and says the lots are “quite safe” – there are only 350 reported incidents per year.

The result of the Director’s careless comments:

“More than 100 emails and calls flooded in from angry readers, some of whom were victimized several times in a year or less at GO stations. The emails made it clear that GO has no process for riders to report thefts, doesn’t share information with police, is understaffed with security officers, and has little or no video surveillance at many lots. Almost all thefts occur during the day, when the lots are jammed with vehicles.”

Wow, even the police gives GO a thumb-down for security.

All right, let’s all sit and watch for a few days as GO’s Marketing & Communications Dept. run around in damage-control mode. Good luck, guys.