Tom Garrity

Archive for September, 2009|Monthly archive page

UNM’s Ostrich Mode Backfires

In Crisis Communication, Uncategorized on September 28, 2009 at 1:57 am

UNM Lobo LogoThe University of New Mexico is in the national sports headlines, but it isn’t for the football program being 0-4 and losing to in-state rival New Mexico State on Saturday night.

The latest headlines are generating a buzz because of a police report claiming that the UNM Football Coach punched out one of his assistant coaches at a post-game meeting.

Once reporters uncovered the police report Monday morning, the University put together an afternoon statement saying that they do not “condone” the head coach’s behavior.  The University has since tried to end the discussion by not commenting on it any further.

After taking a quick a look at this disastrous crisis communications response, I’ll provide an indicator as to why we shouldn’t expect any further comment from the University.

I am sure as soon as word got out internally that this altercation had occurred, there were more than a few expletives proclaimed at every level of the Athletics and President’s office.  Then, someone thought, “hey, maybe nobody will notice the police report and we can just focus on the attention on this week’s contest against Texas Tech.”  Whoever suggested that strategy should be fired and sent to denial school for a fresh dose of reality.

The University of New Mexico had a chance to be proactive and appear to be taking the high road.  As soon as the Albuquerque Police Department showed up, communicators should have started planning their Monday morning news conference to provide full disclosure of the situation, express their regret and perhaps even talk about a penalty for the head coach losing his cool.  Unfortunately, UNM went into “Ostrich Mode”, stuck its head in the sand and hoped nobody would notice the police report.  As a result, UNM appears to be hiding from another embarrassment.

Those who are hoping that UNM President David Schmidly will intervene and overrule the Athletic Director will have better luck hoping the football program doesn’t go winless.  The UNM President has made his position known, indirectly, regarding his thoughts on firm handed coaching techniques.  While he was President of Texas Tech he was the key negotiator that brought fired Hall of Fame basketball coach Bobby Knight to Lubbock.

How can the President comment on the football coach without bringing in his past hiring decisions involving the basketball coach?  That will be the key question mulled over by the public relation practitioners in the coming hours and days as the fallout over punch-out gains more momentum.

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The 365 Day Full Moon

In Life on September 16, 2009 at 1:55 am

fullmoonIs it just me, or does it seem like there has been a full moon for the last 365 days?

Some of the most memorable recent highlights include:

A Federally funded program giving advice on how to start brothels using non-resident minors.

Elected officials heckling other elected officials.

A body of elected officials deciding to take a break from a healthcare debate, which has grown gaggles of hecklers, to wag a finger at a heckler who heckled on national television.

A major daily newspaper has a managing editor selling advertising space.

One music star grabs the microphone from music star from a different genre during her acceptance speech at nationally televised awards show.

A well known tennis icon tells a line judge where to put the ball in a fashion that would make John McEnroe blush.

Pundits say the economy has stabilized but to expect continued job losses and high unemployment rates for years.

All of these “items of the odd” have three common ingredients: ego, greed and panic.

What is the solution?  Perhaps we can take a page from kindergarten and mandate “nap time” so we can all recalibrate and refocus on the important things.

If that doesn’t work, perhaps congress can pass a law declaring the words “do over” as a reasonable form of reconciliation whenever people make really stupid decisions.

A Need for Balance

In Reputation on September 9, 2009 at 1:54 am

Obama BalanceWhile in route home from my youngest daughter’s soccer game, I looked at the clock and realized that the President’s address to a joint session of congress was underway.  I tuned to the news talk station to listen in.  There were people calling in and complaining about the healthcare plan, no Presidential address.  I scanned the entire AM bandwidth until it was clear the speech was not being carried live on any AM radio station that broadcasts in Albuquerque.

I turned over to my Sirius radio and “bam” there it was on CNBC and a host of other conservative and liberal outlets.
It is funny that a broadcaster gave me a reason to switch to satellite and it had everything to do with lack of meaningful content and nothing to do with commercials!

The teachable moment to my daughter brought to these random observations:

Everybody is talking, nobody is listening.  Instead of listening to the proposals, it was easier for a radio station to let listeners vent about the President’s plan instead of providing the opportunity to have them comment after they hear the President’s remarks.

Politics makes strange bedfellows.  During several election cycles, many broadcast VPs and General Managers have commented to me how the election advertising buys saved their month, quarter or year.  But after the election, a sitting President addresses a joint session of congress and it doesn’t warrant live radio coverage?  Instead, regular programming is the rule and a Presidential address to congress is no longer an exception?

The President loves his face time.  This President has had more “prime time” appearances during his first months in office than the last President had during his tenure.

Here is my dichotomy, on one hand I am bristled that I can’t hear the President of the United States address Congress; on the other hand, I can’t blame broadcasters for not carrying it because of all the airtime he’s sucked up already.

I understand the urgency of this President to get the issue in front of Congress before there is an expected majority change following the 2010 mid-term elections.  I also appreciate the same urgency of the minority to stall discussions as a long as possible, for the same perceived mid-term reasons.

Personally, I hope someone calls “do over” and we can have a process that engages the entire electorate with results that benefits all Americans without all the usual rhetoric.