Guest Column: On Your Mark, Get Set… Stop!

nyc marathon 150x150 Guest Column: On Your Mark, Get Set... Stop!

The PR Verdict: “B” (Good Show) for the decision to cancel the New York City Marathon.

Yes, let’s go ahead with the marathon! Wait a minute – let’s not. Late on Friday, Mayor Bloomberg reversed his previous position to go ahead with Sunday’s NYC marathon, an event involving thousands of runners, after coming under tremendous pressure. By Friday, Sunday’s Marathon had been cancelled.

Why the turnaround? In the days following Hurricane Sandy’s devastation on the New York area, it was remarkable to hear the rhetoric from the Mayor – namely, that going on with the race would be a show of strength by New Yorkers. Could Mayor Bloomberg have been more misguided in thinking that holding the event anyway, despite a city torn in half by those who had power and those who did not, would be good for New York morale? What he completely missed was a more careful look at the details. The world could see what apparently only he and the event’s sponsors could not:  This was not September 11.

As the severity of Sandy’s impact grew more apparent, focus sharpened on the redeployment of services to support the race. The New York City Marathon is not a simple run in the park. It includes the use of multiple generators, the very same generators that could now power darkened, cold neighborhoods. Police and Fire Department professionals could also be reassigned from controlling traffic to recovery work. This was one case where the show must NOT go on.

The PR Verdict: “B” (Good Show) for the final decision to cancel the New York City Marathon.

The PR Takeaway: One size does not fit all. Mayor Bloomberg’s original decision to create a” life should go on” platform (as happened with September 11) was the wrong comparison to make. He might have been better guided by the mistake of Condoleezza Rice’s much-maligned visit to Manhattan immediately following Hurricane Katrina in 2005, when she caught a Broadway show and bought a pair of Ferragamos. Then as now, the message was not carry on as normal but rather, stop what you are doing and get help fast to where it is most needed. And that doesn’t include running a marathon.

Rice for Vice? Condi Cancels Her Date with Mitt (Nicely)

 Rice for Vice? Condi Cancels Her Date with Mitt (Nicely)

The PR Verdict: “A” for Condoleeza Rice.

Condoleeza Rice for vice president? Maybe, just maybe . . . But then, NO. What started as a news item on the Mitt Romney-friendly website The Drudge Report  went quickly mainstream. Would Condi make the move? But two days later the general consensus was, “Let’s call the whole thing off.” Case closed.

Rice was always a long shot. If Romney’s PR problem is that he is considered too remote to galvanize the grassroots, then adding Condi Rice would have made a tough campaign even tougher. Besides, given that Romney has tried to steer clear of the Bush legacy, having a stalwart of the Bush years as the Number Two on the ticket would be walking into a host of problems.

Cynics have suggested that Rice was put in the headlines to take news editors minds’ off Romney’s tax filings and his leadership of Bain capital. As a PR strategy, this has merits. But no campaign can have brides publicly rejecting the ring. This had to be limited to a quick diversion. As for Condi, the PR dilemma was this: How do you decline a proposal without offending?

The PR Verdict: “A” for Condoleeza Rice turning down an unofficial vice presidential proposal politely. No one likes rejection, but this issue needed to be cut short before it gathered too much steam.

The PR Takeaway: Dating rules apply in PR. Condi took a leaf out of the old breakup book: It’s not you, it’s me. Publicly turning down the Republican Presidential candidate could seriously impair his campaign and make the next person who accepts look like an also-ran. Without commenting directly, her flaks reiterated her previous comments that she prefers policy over politics. Campaigning for public office is not for her, they said, while Condi herself was nowhere to be seen. With such an elegant TBNT (Thanks, But No Thanks), Romney felt no rejection, and the door remains wide open to a potential candidate. Would that more politicians could handle things so nicely . . .

Did Condoleeza Rice handle rejecting Romney well? Was the rumor of her being asked to consider the VP slot a PR diversion away from his tax issue? Tell us your PR Verdict!