The second most polarizing figure in America today is the former Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation James Comey. Yes, at one point, he was number one, no doubt.
Mr. Comey’s grandmother on his mom’s side and my grandmother on my dad’s side are sisters. I always knew his grandmother as Aunt Irene. Mary and Irene Broderick grew up in New York and got along tremendously well. Ensuring that future generations were connected was not on their watch, just a casualty of the nuclear family.
Despite the distance, I am proud of the bloodline that connects our lineage. Yes, I had thought about giving him a call at the office; the potential thought of discussing public relation approaches with my second cousin sounded kind of cool. But in lieu of the awkward telephone handoffs of explaining the family relation for a dozen or so times with federal agents, only to leave a message with a very capable civilian, I opted to put a few of my thoughts on this blog.
As a public relations practitioner for the past 24 years, what insight could I possibly someone who has “been there and done that” in the gauntlet of public opinion?
First, I’d give former FBI Director three quick recaps:
- The New Yorker story and 60 minutes interview resulted in solid media coverage to share who you are as a person. This is key to creating credibility and likeability.
- The multiple news announcements about the Clinton e-mail server could have been handled better. While I am convinced that in your mind you were doing the right thing, it came across as disjointed and politically motivated.
- Conducting an overview briefing to discuss the process for the respective Flynn and Trump/Russia investigations would have helped to shape future media coverage and conversations without giving away any of the investigative findings.
Then I’d ask, “ok, what’s next for you?” And follow some of these questions (which would surely spur other questions):
- What does a win look like? Why?
- Where do you want to be professionally three years from now?
- How do you want the news headlines to read six months from now, or a year (if you care)?
- Are there any pressing issues or public activities taking place within the next 48-72 hours? List them and explain how they might impact the responses to any of the first three questions.
Based on his answers, we’d develop message and a strategy. As a result of that conversation, some exclusive one on one media interviews would be proposed unique to print (New York Times), radio (Michael Smerconish) and television (60 minutes).
Last question that I would ask: tell me about Aunt Irene!