OtherWise Follow-up
Burson on PR

Spinning contest

RadelPolitico magazine ran a "spin this" contest, challenging readers to come up with a strategy to extract Rep. Trey Radel (R-Fl.) from the controversy following his arrest and subsequent guilty plea for buying cocaine from a DEA agent.

The "winner" had a four-point strategy:

"1) Get head nods: 'Alcohol and drug addiction is a disease that millions of families across American have to face.'

"2) Demonstrate your shared belief: 'Like many, I too have made a serious mistake based on this disease and my own weakness. And being a member of Congress is no excuse, and I don't expect special treatment.'

"3) Highlight your own efforts: 'I have pleaded guilty to the charges. I have begged forgiveness of my wife, and am devastated about what this means for my young son. And I am of course seeking medical treatment.'

"4) Make the ask: 'I will be taking a leave of absence, and ask for privacy for me and my family during this period. When I complete my treatment, if -- and only if -- my doctors deem me fit, I will return to Congress to do the job the voters have sent me to do'." 

That's better advice than the expert who suggested Radel claim, "Bitch set me up!"

But I'm only on board until the "ask." Elections have consequences -- and so does an elected official's behavior.

At some point, a PR person's job is not to help a client evade those consequences, but to accept them. That's not always easy -- sometimes, it's even impossible -- but it's ultimately in the client's best long-term interests.

Rep. Radel may not have difficulty finding a doctor who will pronouce him fit to return to Congress, but convincing voters of that is a higher hurdle. Accepting the consequences of unlawful behavior is the only way he can demonstrate true contrition.  

PR's job is not to "spin" the facts, but to help a client make the right decision and, only then, to explain it.  In this case, that means resigning in a way that retains the possibility of eventually winning forgiveness and redemption.




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