Libya: The Devil Is In Giving the Details

 Libya: The Devil Is In Giving the Details

The PR Verdict: “D” (PR Problematic) for the Obama Administration.

Nearly three weeks after the deadly attack on the US Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, and the murder of the US Ambassador Christopher Stevens, the Obama Administration still seems caught up in its own shifting accounts of what happened and when. Its messages are muddled. Could simple PR basics help?

Things got off to a messy start as Twitter feeds at the time of the US consulate attack indicated that rioting was taking place following discovery of the now infamous anti-Muslim film on YouTube. Tweets from State Department employees on the scene described the riot as spontaneous. On day two of the attack, President Obama was at pains to describe it as “an act of terror.” Susan Rice, his Ambassador to the United Nations, then muddied the waters by saying the attacks were “spontaneous” and related to similar film-ignited protests in Cairo. Since then, both versions have been revised.

Intelligence officials have been quoted in the media as saying the attack, while not planned months in advance, was organized by a group with sympathies to Al Qaeda but not linked directly to them. The FBI says it has been unable to investigate the murder due to the extreme danger of the area. Who is right?

The PR Verdict: “D” (PR Problematic) for the Obama administration in its handling of this issue. What happened, and more importantly, who now has the responsibility to explain?

The PR Takeaway: There’s nothing wrong with buying time. The problem the Administration is getting into is directly related to its previous rush to explain. A few simple comments at the outset, making it plain that it was too early to fully explain what happened, would have given the Administration more wiggle room three weeks ago. The key now is to pass the issue to a non-partisan spokesperson at the State Dept or FBI. If not, then playing politics with this issue is the most likely continued outcome – never ideal with only five weeks before the election.

What’s your opinion of how the Obama Administration has handled the attacks in Libya? Give us your PR Verdict!

No Easy Interview for a Navy Seal

 No Easy Interview for a Navy Seal

The PR Verdict: B (Good Show) for Matt Bissonnette, Navy Seal and author of No Easy Day.

“Awesome” and “cool” were just some of the everyday terms that Navy Seal Matt Bissonnette used in a recent interview with 60 Minutes. He has gone public with a memoir, No Easy Day, of his time served during the operation that killed Osama Bin Laden. The book is written under his nom de plume Mark Owen and coincides neatly with the anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attacks.

Bissonnette kicked off his informal and friendly TV interview with his appearance and voice disguised as he gave a tick-tock explanation of what happened in that now notorious Pakistani compound. Bissonnette gave few surprises. He stayed surprisingly close to the previously released official version of the event; this was not a mission to kill, but to “capture alive if feasible,” and the operation was a collective effort of talented individuals.

Bissonnette’s PR dilemma is to how comment on the events without creating controversy. Legally gagged from disclosing military secrets, his PR push is limited by the ever-present danger of inadvertently breaching official secrets.  His answer? Provide reassuring confirmation of already disclosed key facts, talk like an everyday humble guy and only give color and added information that are of limited consequence.

The PR Verdict: “B” (Good Show) for Matt Bissonnette’s PR push that treads a fine line but so far hasn’t overstepped boundaries.

The PR Takeaway: Stay on course, but add some spice. Bissonnette’s dilemma is that he could be accused of breaching official secrets. With most of the book’s proceeds going to organizations that help families of fallen Seals, his own motives are not open to debate. His minor details concerning who fired what when makes no appreciable difference to the overall established narrative – but it does make it almost impossible for the authorities to play a heavy hand. Skillfully done and elegantly handled.

To read more and see part of the 60 Minutes interview, click here.

Did you see the 60 Minutes interview, or read Matt Bissonnette’s book? Give us your PR Verdict!