By anyone’s standards, U.S. Commerce Secretary John Bryson has had a difficult past few days. News reports have been filled with tales of the senior government official rear-ending a car, driving away, and then crashing into a second car before police found him alone and unconscious in the Los Angeles suburbs. What happened? Is there a scandal to be uncovered?
Having apparently suffered a seizure in his car while driving alone, he hit the headlines after being cited for felony hit-and-run. Instead of being booked in jail, he was taken to an area hospital for medical attention. That’s when the media went from excited to very excited.
The first thing his PR pointed out was that “Secretary Bryson was involved in a traffic accident” and that he suffered a “seizure.” While the official police comment was “The investigation is in its preliminary stages,” Bryson’s spokesperson quickly said that drugs and alcohol did not appear to have been a factor in the two alleged hit-and-run crashes.” So far, so good PR–but how else could the volume and excitement be turned down on this story?
The PR Verdict: “C” (Distinctly OK) for the PR handling of Bryson’s car accident. A clear and straightforward approach efficiently done. We’re withholding a top grade as one crucial element was missing…
PR Takeaway: Adding non-official voices to any incident softens the story. The problem with the PR response so far is that it remains in the realm of a police investigation. Take the story in another direction: Have a statement issued by his four daughters. The family is rallying around their father whose recovery is now the number one priority. Reiterate collective relief that no one was hurt and use a term other than “ investigation.” Far better to confirm Bryson is assisting with inquires and focusing on rest and a quick recuperation. Thanks for your kindness and understanding, case closed.
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