Monday, September 29, 2008

PR Case Study: Don't Anger Comedians

When I was undergraduate, we looked at a few case studies in a public relations course I took with Dr. Mac at NMSU. It seemed that when you looked at 60 Minutes ambushing a CEO, there was almost no way to look good.

However, when you expect to get grilled by a CBS program, you do not expect to get grilled by David Letterman.

This happened to Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain when he canceled his Letterman appearance purportedly to head back to Washington to discuss the Wall Street bailout.

As you can see, that angered Letterman, who felt that a vice presidential candidate should be able to step in.

However, when Letterman found out that McCain did not head back to Washington and instead was in a different CBS studio, taping an interview with Katie Couric. Letterman's jest toward McCain turned far more pointed.

It shows that comics who usually use their sharp wits can be more acerbic when they feel it is appropriate.

One has to wonder whether Letterman's widely reported rant is part of the reason the democratic candidate Barack Obama holds a large 8 percentage point lead (50% to 42%) according to Gallup's latest three-day tracking poll.

No matter how this election turns out, I think that "campaign suspension" decision and related handling of the press will be taught as a PR case study one day.

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Blogger Madison said...

I think this is a great example of how badly things can go if you don’t watch your step from the PR perspective.

Many of the swing voters are average people who get most of their entertainment and political news from television. The David Letterman Show appeals to both of these needs. To offend the host is to offend his viewers. The message they intended to send to the people – ‘We care’ – was horribly scrambled when the campaign cancelled on such short notice. It was even more harmful when McCain showed up in an interview with Katie Couric instead of fixing the nation’s economic blunder in D.C.!

This issue is one that will be studied in the future without a doubt. Not only because it revolves around a historic economic blunder, but because of how it was handled in the scope of a national campaign’s image.

Letterman let the campaign have it. Maybe they deserved it. The cancellation should have been handled better than it was. Yes, there were other priorities, but never should PR professionals set-up a beating like this for their client. If he said he was going to vote, then that is what he should’ve been doing, not being interviewed by someone else. McCain’s campaign stepped in it here and the message was broadcasted to a very important public in a very harsh way. Good luck repairing the damage.

11:21 AM  

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