Saturday, January 25, 2014

A little confrontation on Church St.

TV news websites often repurpose their on-air scripts as web copy. It's quick and inexpensive. Trouble is, it often makes the reporter and his or her subject sound foolish.

Read WHEC-TV's online account of the Mayor Warren/Reggie Hill story's finale:

Does Amanda, the reporter, sound like Thorndyke, the snarky reporter in "Die Hard?" Honestly, taxpayers aren't clamoring for Mayor Warren's comments on this tired story of a retired state trooper whose niece gave him a retirement job without first telling him: "Obey the traffic laws." (Warren apologized on a local radio station earlier in the week.)

Does the mayor's spokesperson sound annoyed and defensive? Of course. 

She started out by claiming Warren's uncle wasn't speeding as fast as officers said he was. She got into the weeds very early and likely never had all the facts. A PR strategy that most closely resembles "dodge 'em" cars at a county fair isn't going to work when your sole client is the highest elected official in Rochester. 

There's a big difference between whipping up a campaign strategy for an underdog mayoral candidate and creating a long-term communications strategy that embraces policy decisions, staffing choices, and yes, crisis communications. You need to think beyond messages and visuals.

Who ever creates Mayor Warren's PR strategy needs to establish key messages, yes. But also build out strategies and tactics that reinforce the messages. No more confrontations on the steps of City Hall on Church St. Put the topic of Hill's hiring squarely on the shoulders of the ethics board that looks at the case, and shut up 'til they share their findings.

And Amanda? Your news director needs to be told this story is dead, at least until the ethics board rules. Hill is gone. Warren's apologized. There are other stories in city government that cry for investigation, not reheated sensationalism. Look forward.