So by now we know White House press secretary Sean Spicer wasn’t actually hiding in the bushes to avoid the media last week. He was, per The Washington Post, “huddled with his staff among bushes.”
Regardless, the events that have been unfolding last week in Washington, and the way they have played in the media, serve as cautionary tales for all of us in the communications industry.
Here are 5 PR lessons we can all learn from watching The White House:
- Perception is reality. It doesn’t matter if Sean Spicer was hiding in the bushes, huddled among the bushes, pruning the bushes or building a makeshift briefing room under the hedge, perception is reality in our business. And the perception we all took away from that evening briefing on the White House Lawn, was that the press secretary was trying to hide. Not a good look.
2. Memes travel farther than truth. Here’s another lesson we should all note: a good meme is way more interesting than facts – real or alternative. Period.
3. If you can’t deliver the story, you become the story. Sean Spicer couldn’t help the media write their stories about FBI Director James Comey’s firing, so that became the story. The imagery of Spicer “among” the bushes and demanding the camera lights be shut off told a story of a White House in turmoil. PR becomes the story when the facts are missing.
4. PR problems are rarely just PR problems. This is a point we have made before and no doubt will need to make again. Too often, what is characterized as a PR problem, is actually an organization problem. Spicer could be the most skilled press secretary ever and he still wouldn’t be able to put a positive spin on many of the stories emerging from Washington this year.
5. If you’re not in the loop, you can’t do your job. PR peeps, if your executive is leaving you out of the loop, it may be time to find a new job or a new client. We cannot do our jobs if we are the last to know. See: Comey firing.