January 4, 2017, by Sara R. Brady
It was just day three of 2017 when Congressional Republicans got bruised by a self-inflicted public relations wound. Early morning newscasts broke the story that just hours earlier on the SECOND day of the new year, when they met and voted in secret to “gut” the Office of Congressional Ethics, erasing its independent status. Less than 24 hours later, the news broke again when the same Republicans reversed themselves.
Sometimes, the biggest blunders start out as the most obvious of mistakes. That’s why smart, forthcoming crisis communication advisers play such a critical role in today’s world – because we understand the potential damage from poor decision-making, we can prevent otherwise smart individuals from foolishness.
This particular event on day two of the year, has some bright red flags that appear to have simply been ignored:
- The House Republican’s first act of the year was to weaken the department responsible for essentially keeping Congressional leaders honest. Instead they created the perception that they don’t want to be watched or held to standards of honor and integrity.
- They met and voted in secret, a hint that they actually had a clue that theirs was an unpopular decision explaining why they slipped it through the dark of night.
- And they clearly didn’t anticipate the tidal wave of shock and distress from the public as well as from the nation’s incoming president.
These elected leaders knew better and ignored the likely outcomes anyway. This is a fine example of how strategic communication counselors often serve the role as an organization’s conscience. We know people sometimes display poor judgment and lose their way, which is why organizations and businesses need crisis communication management. For those of us who do this for a living, it’s our duty to be courageous enough to save others from themselves by making sure they know when an idea is treacherous, a threat to their credibility and why. On a day when the Republican party should have experienced the joy of victory and a celebration of their success, they took the low road and gave themselves a black eye and their first embarrassment of the year.