Any guesses as to what life is like at the home of Paula Broadwell? For anyone who has missed the latest “spy who loved me” headlines, Broadwell is the scholar, athlete, and biographer who has been named as the “other woman” in the life of now-retired general David Petraeus. Fooling around with Broadwell cost Petraeus his job as head of the CIA. We assume he will bounce back, but what of her?
It’s not yet clear where and when the headlines will stop. Apparently the FBI came across Petraeus’s indiscretion while investigating emails that Broadwell sent to a third party. Broadwell, in an apparent fit of jealousy, allegedly threatened another woman via email who, because the emails allegedly concerned the head of the CIA, reported it to the FBI. Some weeks later the career of the Chief Spook was over.
It’s not clear what Broadwell should do now. Is it time for her to set the record straight? As a forty-year-old mother of two, she presumably wants to preserve her credibility. Her previously well-received biography of Petraeus is now viewed with cynicism and Broadwell’s new uncomfortable fame is as Petraeus’s nemesis. If she talks, it will only add fuel to the fire.
The PR Verdict: “B” for Paula Broadwell and her PR strategy of morphing from the “other woman” to the “invisible woman.”
The PR Takeaway: Wait until the smoke clears. Sometimes the only thing to do is lay low and wait for better visibility. At the moment, l’affaire Petraeus remains highly volatile. With new parties being added to the mix and congressional hearings still to take place, Broadwell needs to maintain maximum flexibility. Having disappeared entirely from public view, the media is on the lookout for her, but for the moment the best advice is to resist any temptation to set the record straight and be completely incommunicado. It’s better to read the press coverage from the comfort of a getaway location. Now is not the time for visibility.