This post on the PR site “Seat at the Table” profiles a recent TV dust-up that showcases how shallow and inadequate the vaunted political PR machinery can be at times. This case involves a very persistent Campbell Brown, the CNN anchor/reporter, and McCain spokesperson Tucker Bounds. I happened to watch this clip on CNN.com myself a couple of times and almost enjoyed watching Bounds squirm. The problem – and key lesson for PR professionals – is the peril of sticking to the script at almost any cost. Many of us have trained our executives or clients to “redirect” to stick to their messages and use various methods to control the conversation. But as stated in this blog, that should not be done at the cost of logic or credibility. You still have to answer the question…or at least something close to the question. Tucker Bounds shows what happens when the canned answer is not relevant or responsive and the reporter is persistent…simply repeating the same oblique answer is not, pardon the pun, the answer.
This episode probably says more about the unfortunate perversion of PR tactics during political campaigns than the state of journalism; the blog rightly praises Brown for being one of the few reporters not afraid to press for a clear answer. Either way, it’s a good reminder that the foundation of all good PR is honesty, not propaganda. All the tricks in the world won’t help if the answer, or message, is bunk.