Obama Was Unprepared for Media Focus on Blago

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At the New York Post, Kirsten Powers notes that the Barack Obama team has bungled the media management of the Rod Blagojevich scandal.

The Obama camp has managed to violate almost every tenet of crisis communications – starting with Rule No. 1: Get all the information out quickly, accurately and fully.

It’s imperative that reporters don’t learn something from a third party that you could have told them. And, in the era of nonstop news, “quickly” means within 24 hours. Any longer, and reporters begin to get frustrated (they’re under pressure from their editors) and feel that you’re stonewalling them. And why would you stonewall unless you were hiding something?

Powers points out that the Obama team’s innocence in the matter is readily apparent and they had no need to procrastinate with details or shift communication methods so awkwardly. Powers details how inconsistent answers and a poorly managed approach have turned what should have been a one or two day news story into a week-long headache.

Undoubtedly, the Obama team could have handled the Blago matter with more finesse. But I think they were caught off guard by a media that has already switched from covering the young, inspiring candidate to covering a sitting president. Obama can no longer expect much benefit of the doubt. He’s not challenging power. He is power.

Given what we know about Obama, I doubt he will let his team make these kinds of communication mistakes again. The playing field has changed. Team Obama now has to change with it.