This morning we stood on New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s ample shoulders and used him as a teaching tool for what not to do in the first 24 hours of a crisis.
With his news conference today, Christie came back from the near-dead.
In a two-hour news conference, he stepped up, apologized, took responsibility, fired people and was as transparent as he could possibly be — or so it seemed. Christie looked and sounded credible and contrite. He did not obfuscate. He seemed forthright.
He said he would make changes and announced them. He answered reporters’ questions until they became repetitive. And, he said he would go to Ft. Lee, meet with the mayor and apologize personally to the city’s people. The everyman touch.
[Ft. Lee hasn’t gotten this much positive attention since George Washington and Gen. Charles Lee bunked the Revolutionary Army there to defend New York in 1776.]
The only part holding him back from an “A” crisis management performance was his insistence that he can never know what 65,000 state employees are doing every day. But that’s a classic straw man defense. No one’s asking him to. They’re asking him to know what the five people closest to him every day — a staff he described as close family — are doing every day, on his behalf and at his direction. And he has not adequately answered that, he’s only blamed them.
The other component of crucial crisis management is getting out all the bad news you know as soon as possible. He maintains he does not have all the facts yet. That’s OK, if we believe he knew ‘nothing, nothing, nothing.’ He gets the benefit of our doubts, for now. But if legislative and federal investigations prove otherwise, he’ll be counting grains of sand on the Jersey shore the rest of his life.
But unless he lied, or the investigations find complicity, he’s probably still on track for the Promised Land. As his bard Bruce Springsteen sings:
The dogs on main street howl ’cause they understand
If I could take one moment into my hands
Mister I ain’t a boy, no I’m a man
And I believe in a promised land
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 http://www.mower.com. Steve’s blog is based on his own opinions and does not represent the views or positions of Eric Mower + Associates.