PR 101: Don’t be a Weiner

By now, you’ve heard the story of U.S. Democratic Representative Weiner, he of Twitpic fame.
[missing out? see the end of this post for The Anatomy of a Scandal] It sounds like a bad joke: Representative Weiner tweets a photo of his wiener. Unfortunately for the Representative, this situation was no joke. Today, nearly two weeks since the scandal broke, Weiner resigned.

In today’s society, philandering and public embarrassment are no longer political death sentences. Sure, they can severely damage your reputation or lead to whispers, but if correctly handled they’re manageable.

Here’s how to mitigate a scandal:

  1. Dont lie. There’s nothing people hate more than being lied to. Be truthful and honest, leave nothing open for interpretation.
  2. Be quick. In a crisis, the best thing you can do is get as much information out as quickly as possible. Make sure your messaging is aligned throughout your organization and designate a spokesperson. Remember: if you’re not saying it, someone else will. Break the news yourself.
  3. Be authentic and open. This isn’t the time to bottle up your emotions or revert to a canned speech. Sure, a carefully-prepared speech will ensure that you say on message. However, it will also show that you’re afraid and wooden. Show that you’re human, that you’re sorry and that you care. People will respect that.
  4. Commit to change. If you’ve done something bad, own up to it and let people know how you’ll avoid such behaviour in the future. This could be anything from committing to therapy to ensuring your product is tested more regularly.

Weiner broke every single rule of effective crisis communication. His team let the information get out of hand and, when they began to admit something had gone wrong, didn’t pre-empt the inevitable release of more photos. Just how Bill Clinton was impeached shortly after claiming he “did not have sexual relations with that woman”, Weiner was doomed to fail when the lying began.

Remember – it’s easy to survive a crisis. Don’t be a Weiner.

The Anatomy of a Scandal

(largely sourced from The Huffington Post):

  • Friday, May 27: Weiner sends waist-down photo of a man’s underpants to a 21-year-old female college student in Seattle. The tweet is deleted & he quickly claims his Facebook was hacked
  • Saturday, May 28:, reports that Weiner sent the lewd photo.
  • Sunday, May 29: Weiner spokesman claims the photo was the work of a hacker
  • Tuesday, May 31: Weiner lawyers up and returns to work on Capitol Hill, yet refuses to answers reporters’ question
  • Wednesday, June 1: Weiner does interviews, infamously comments to MSNBC that he cannot say “with certitude” whether the photo was him or not
  • Monday, June 6: strikes again, publishing photos from a second woman. These ones are shirtless.
    • Weiner responds to the photos, apologizes and admits sending the photos & lying to protect himself
    • Weiner admits he had inappropriate contact with six women over 3 years using social networking. He isn’t sure of their ages & never had contact in person with them.
    • Nancy Pelosi calls for an ethics investigation into Weiner.
    • Weiner says he has no plans to resign.
  • Wednesday, June 8: Another (X-rated) photo surfaces. Weiner’s office does not deny it’s of him.
  • Thursday, June 9: News breaks that Weiner’s wife, Huma Abedin (aide to Secretary of State Clinton), is pregnant.
  • Friday, June 10: Weiner acknowledges the exchange of online messages with a 17-year-old girl. Politicians call for Weiner’s resignation
  • Saturday, June 11: In the face of calls for his resignation, Weiner announces plans to take a temporary leave of absence from the House & seek treatment
  • Sunday, June 12: More ph0tographs are published by
  • Monday, June 13: President Barack Obama says he’d resign if he was in Weiner’s position
  • Wednesday, June 15: Weiner’s wife, Huma Abedin from trip to Africa with Clinton. Former pornstar claiming to have engaged in inappropriate online relations holds a presser. Pornstar expresses opinion that Weiner should step down.
  • Thursday, June 16: Weiner resigns.