MEMO ATTN: FROM: RE:
Frances Hong, Minister of State (Sport) Stephanie Fusco & Kurtis Helmer, Fusco-Helmer Communications Crisis Communications Strategy
In light of recent developments regarding your investment in Whistler Villages Inc. and your involvement in the second media center for the Vancouver 2010 Olympics, we have devised the following communication strategies for you. Please read this memorandum over carefully and prepare to discuss it at our meeting later today. SCHEDULED EVENTS Monday, March 7 4:30PM - Meeting with PR Team 5:30PM - Meeting with Prime Minister 6:30PM – PMO Press Conference 7:30PM - Interview with Vancouver Sun Tuesday, March 8 6:00AM – Launch of statement on all related websites & Twitter / Story breaks in the Vancouver Sun 7:00AM – Press Conference Preparation 9:00AM – Personal Press Conference COMMUNICATION GOALS In order to best maintain your image and protect future ambitions and ventures, we suggest that you control the flow of information and prevent falsehoods from becoming truth in the media. To do so, we plan to respond quickly, maintain control of the message, and maintain your position as Minister within the government. This will be achieved by careful choice of words, convincing the public this will not happen again, and preventing the federal government from seeming weak as a result of your alleged actions. In our experience, the Canadian public responds best to action-oriented communications and so we must be careful to propose a solution that is achievable. It is also important to remember that your job requires the Conservatives to stay in office, which may not be possible if an election were to be called by the Liberals. Thus, the interests of the government are also your own. If this situation is handled effectively, we may be able to diminish the effects of the supposedly forthcoming Liberal attack ads that will mention your alleged transgressions. CHOICE OF MEDIUM To best control dissemination of information, we have arranged for you to meet with the Prime Minister before his press conference, an interview with the Vancouver Sun, creating an online response for the crisis, and planning a press conference. We believe that this wide array of media will allow for a successful cross-platform communication strategy, targeting a wide audience. This will ensure that you are able to control the message. By using print, online, and television mediums, as well as arranging face-to-
face meetings, you will maintain and enhance your credibility and ensure that the facts are being presented in the best light possible. This will also help to ensure your message reaches a broad audience and that it is simple to digest. ONGOING STRATEGIES Throughout the next few days, we will be carefully monitoring the blogosphere and online comments on news sites to gauge public reaction as the situation unfolds. With the emergence of online personalities, such as bloggers, as influencers, it is important that we treat them as we would any other media outlet and ensure that their concerns are taken into account. We will be inviting prominent bloggers and online personalities to your personal press conference, along with other media. Online reactions give a good representative sample of how individual citizens perceive you, and we may adjust our strategies accordingly to ensure the best possible outcome based on their feedback. Futher, we will be available to you, your team, and the media 24 hours a day during this crisis to ensure all needs are met and the message is controlled. MEETING WITH PR TEAM The strategy presented in this memo is contingent on your full disclosure of all information pertaining to this situation to your public relations team in the preliminary meeting to discuss this memo. In this meeting, we will discuss your public appearances and request that you allow us to assume control of your online presence and daily schedule. It is of the utmost importance that we maintain a uniform approach and that everyone is on the same wavelength to avoid further leaks and subsequent unplanned media coverage. For this reason, we also ask that you bring your team of staff to the meeting and allow us to brief them together on the situation and strategy. Any information that is leaked to the contrary would be severely detrimental to both your image and the success of the crisis management. MEETING WITH PRIME MINISTER We have set up this meeting to impress upon the Prime Minister that we view his interests and the interests of the party as aligned with our own. We understand that being a member of Cabinet under Prime Minister Harper means that your behaviour directly impacts their goals and image. Thus, we feel it is necessary that you involve the PM in all decisions you make regarding this issue. Further, given the timing of the press conference PM Harper has called, we suspect he may speak in response to your actions. Your primary goals in this meeting are to establish that this situation will be handled appropriately and will not reflect badly on the party, and to remind Harper of your inherent worth to his party and Cabinet. The recent success of the Olympics and the boon it has had on the public perception of the Harper government, especially after the issue with prorogation, would be quickly soured if he fired the Minister of Sport and the MP for Vancouver Centre. We believe that your constituents would strongly support you following the success of the games and would sympathize with you. As such, we believe you are in an excellent position to maintain your place in Cabinet and as MP for Vancouver Centre if this is handled properly. We suggest that you re-establish your many assets such as your likeability with the media, gender, and strong connections to the
Chinese community, as well as the fact that you are newly appointed and for you to be fired would reflect poorly on his decision making capacity. We will be in close contact with the Prime Minister’s PR team throughout this crisis and hope to work together. PMO PRESS CONFERENCE It is our hope that this conference will not concern your alleged transgressions. You should not attend unless explicitly asked to. We hope that your meeting with the Prime Minister will mitigate any concerns he hoped to address publicly at the conference, and that we will be able to proceed as planned with our crisis communication strategy. If not, we will adjust accordingly to ensure that your needs are met. INTERVIEW WITH VANCOUVER SUN We have decided to grant the Vancouver Sun an exclusive and, thus, the privilege of breaking this story in hopes of fostering a positive relationship with the media and subsequent favourable coverage on this issue. Your current position as a well-regarded figure in the media should be beneficial. Further, limiting the story to the Vancouver Sun will help to control the message, as any other media outlet wishing to carry the story would have to use the quotes and facts listed in the Sun’s piece. This will hopefully help to limit speculation and fabrication. The national media buzz surrounding this story has made it impossible to stop the story completely and so we have chosen instead to attempt to shape it. We are choosing to work with the Vancouver Sun instead of giving an exclusive to another paper because we want to both face the team investigating the issue directly and to keep the scope regional instead of national to begin with. LAUNCH OF OFFICIAL STATEMENT This statement should remain consistent throughout all mediums. It will be posted prominently on all social media and personal websites and will be read aloud by you at the press conference. As outlined in the schedule, we will be posting this statement online at 6:00 Tuesday morning, to pre-empt the story that will be breaking in the Vancouver Sun. The justification for this is that while we will control the Vancouver Sun interview as much as possible, it is unlikely they will print your entire statement. Also, readers and news outlets will be looking to you personally for a larger apology and statement and will likely turn to online sources to find them. “I come to you today deeply embarrassed. My integrity has been called into question by allegations brought forth by the media, and I would like to set the record straight. While I was city councilor for the City of Vancouver, I incorporated and became the primary owner of a company that purchased property in Whistler. This took place several years ago, before my foray into federal politics. When I was appointed Minister of Sport, I failed to divulge my position within this company. This became a conflict of interest under the Federal Accountability Act because I did not place my holdings in a blind trust and was involved directly with the company in situations where my position could have influenced revenues. I can assure you that this is not the case. In a similar situation, there have been allegations that I used my supposed influence as a new member of Cabinet and as a former councilor to gain a contract from VANOC to use
a building I own as the second media centre during both the Olympic and Paralympic games. These allegations are untrue, and I was unaware of the lack of tender, that is, the open bidding on a contract, in this situation. However, I am deeply regretful for this similar breach in the Federal Accountability Act. I intend to right these wrongs in the best way I can. I will be donating the majority of the $2 million windfall my company received to the SportsRenewal program and to the future of the Olympic Games in Canada. This program is a significant sports infrastructure development to coincide with Canada’s Sesquicentennial in 2017, which will hopefully encourage further Canadian involvement in sports. Representing the people of Vancouver Centre has been, and will continue to be one of my life’s honours and key priorities. I owe Canadians my sincere apologies for the shame this has caused, but I also owe them a promise that I will work with the Prime Minister’s office and the Parliamentary committee to move us beyond this bump in the road. Let us not forget that the Canadian spirit, recently demonstrated during the Games, is one of compassion, understanding, and the ability to persevere through anything thrown our way. Thank you for your continued support.” We will go over the tone and practice this statement both in debate preparation and during our meeting later today. As you can see, the statement gives full disclosure to the amount of money you received, how the situation came about, and what we will be doing to fix it. We believe this statement is rhetorically strong in that it establishes credibility and will elicit an empathetic response from the audience. To ensure this, we advise that you deviate slightly from this statement during the press conference to avoid seeming too stoic and prepared. PERSONAL PRESS CONFERENCE This press conference will be open to the public and to national news media. It will also be televised to reach the broadest audience possible. You will read aloud the statement above and will then participate in a question and answer period. This will be the last official interview you will give on the matter and we believe it will be a positive way to complete our strategy. Your strengths lie in media relations, and we are certain you will excel in fielding questions, as you are generally well liked by the media. We will limit the question and answer period to 15-20 minutes to avoid repetition and deviation from the question at hand. We will have a preparation session before the conference, discussing potential questions and the appropriate answers as well as re-iterating our communication goals. Once again, we stress that you should not be afraid of showing emotion. While composure is ideal, you must also show that this situation has actually affected you and that you are sincerely deeply apologetic. We hope this strategy of quick response, full disclosure, and controlling the message will be beneficial and look forward to working with you. Stephanie Fusco & Kurtis Helmer Communications Strategists, Fusco-Helmer Communications
Published on May 26, 2010
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