Kerry Kennedy stands against the family tide of screwups


Kerry Kennedy gets it.

Whether or not she is guilty of some crime for running her car into a truck on a Westchester highway last Friday is for others to decide. I can’t vouch for her character. But she followed the best rules of crisis management yesterday. She stood up, delivered facts, apologized and took command of the story.

This is the face of public assumptions she’s another Kennedy screwup; in the face of a New York Post headline calling her Hell on Wheels.

This is especially difficult when you are a Kennedy, the daughter of Robert F., and the ex-wife of Gov. Andrew Cuomo. The litany of Kennedy tragedies and mishaps runs back 50 years or more. Her brother’s wife recently killed herself and the families involved have fought over everything from cause to blame to cemetery plot location.

So it was all the more surprising to see Kerry Kennedy standing before cameras, microphones and paparazzi and calmly explaining she’d done nothing wrong. No illegal drugs. No alcohol. Her doctors said maybe she suffered a seizure. Again, that’s for prosecutors to sort out. But her character showed through.

She got ahead of the story, took it over, delivered the facts as she knows them and rebuilt her reputation before our eyes. It was a stunning performance. We could see and judge her credibility for ourselves. We could look into her eyes. We could factor in the Kennedy power. Surely the best lawyers and public relations advisers were available to her.

But she didn’t run and hide. No big sunglasses and big hat rushing to a black-window SUV surrounded by an offensive line with squiggly wires in their ears. No Hollywood fluff. No strutting entitlement. Modesty.

Simple, straightforward, honest. It may prove an act, possibly a dishonest one.

But she stood up and took it. She apologized to the trucker. She recounted what she told police. Could she have mistaken a sleeping pill for a thyroid medication? Tests will show.

But today she is Exhibit A of how quick, factual response to a crisis can rebuild and even enhance one’s reputation.

The content of this blog is about crisis management and mismanagement in a digital age. It originates with Steve Bell, who spent 30 years as a journalist for the Associated Press and in four top editor positions at The Buffalo News. He is now Partner/Director of Public Affairs at Eric Mower + Associates, one of the nation’s largest independent advertising, integrated marketing and public relations agencies, with seven offices in the Northeast and Southeast. Learn more about EMA at www.mower.com. Steve’s blog is based on his own opinions and does not represent the views or positions of Eric Mower + Associates.

Nicely done.

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About steveoncrisis

The content is about crisis management and mismanagement in a digital age. It comes from Steve Bell, who spent 30 years as a journalist for the Associated Press and as managing editor and editorial page editor at The Buffalo News. He is now Partner/Director of Public Affairs at Eric Mower and Associates, one of the nation's largest independent advertising, integrated marketing and public relations agency with six offices in the Northeast and Southeast.
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