My friends and colleagues Mark Prosser and Todd Erskine, members of the law enforcement team in Storm Lake, Ia. recently shared a video with me that really does an excellent job of putting into perspective the challenges associated with speaking your mind when dealing with the media.
Some of you reading this realize that for years I worked daily with the media. I was one of those government spokespeople. Even today I work closely with my media friends through our business on behalf of many of our clients. However, long ago I gave up the responsibility of being the “media spokesperson” for any client or organization.
Today, I teach workshops that help folks learn how to best position their statements and survive media onslaught during a crisis. You can read all about this at our web site http://www.armstrongandassociates,org/
Back to my point. Todd and Mark shared a video interview where a representative of the police in San Francisco expresses his “real opinions” of the way the media has handled the death of a fellow officer.
Now, before I proceed let me explain a very important point.
I have known and worked with law enforcement, the military and intelligence agencies for many years. I have a background in military intelligence operations. Doug Bailey, a dear friend of mine who was killed a few years ago in an auto accident, was a police officer for Vanderbilt University and I had the honor to deliver his eulogy. I am not without prejudice and basis when it comes to helping law enforcement officers learn how to deal with the media.
The video that I reviewed violates a number of the key issues associated with “political correctness” and even falls over into the areas of “speculation” a couple of times.
However, IF the information this officer delivers is correct — and that is the key — then more power to him.
He says what many of us — myself included — have wanted to say more than once.
I only hope that his facts are correct and that he understands that it is true in the political and media arena “for every action there is an equal an opposite reaction.”
I suggest you watch the video at: (cut and paste)http://mfile.akamai.com/12948/wmv/vod.ibsys.com/2006/0728/9591734.300k.asx
Now, for my thoughts and commentary on this as a professional media trainer and a consultant who has 35-years experience in the field:
1. This man in the video representing the SFPD shows unbridled passion and expresses his opinion very clearly.
2. However, I know for a fact that his superiors are “quaking in their boots” because he is being politically incorrect. Yet, I believe he has every right to be justifiably outraged at how the media has “cast” this case into the public arena. This is something a media spokesperson would not normally do — show his passion and his emotions and voice such an unabashed opinion.
3. However, he clearly states that this is his opinion and if you have ever lost a man under your command you can clearly identify with his position.
4. As long as he has his facts correct – and this is critically important and the key – he has every right to his opinions and can state the position he holds as long as he understands the ultimate consequences.
5. You would not, of course, never want to put yourself in the position of jeopardizing a case the District Attorney has to carry forward – and the FACTS must always be accurate IF you are going to step out such as this.
6. We must always remember that in government and public service there are consequences when we get off the reservation – it is just the way the business works and that for “every action in the political world there is an equal and often opposite reaction.”
7. I say he is RIGHT ON TARGET except that IF he is in a nonmerit position his job is at stake most likely because of his comments directed about and towards the judges – there will most likely be HELL to PAY but I don’t fault him the least – and everywhere BUT in San Francisco he would be loudly applauded for his honesty and candidness.
8. I quite suspect this man slept better the night after this than any night of his life! And YES sometimes we just have to do what is right and let the chips fall wherever they may.
And that is my assessment.
My appreciation to Todd and Mark for sharing this insightful video with me.
Let’s be careful out there.
Until next time.