You’ve seen Governor Chris Christie’s statement about what they’re calling “Bridgegate.”
The statement is bold, direct, unequivocal.
And it certainly was timely. The governor could not have waited one more minute. When you’re facing an apparent crisis in confidence, time is of the essence.
So, what’s next?
What has to happen if Governor Christie is to put this matter behind him and move on?
I can only advise him as a lifetime public relations practitioner. Based on my knowledge and experience, here’s what I would suggest to Governor Christie, an effective and compelling public figure who I deeply admire and respect:
1) This may seem obvious but first and foremost, tell the truth. And keep telling the truth. The truth is paramount.
2) You’ve already stepped forward to express your outrage and say this sort of behavior will not be tolerated. You’ve acted like a leader. Now, keep leading. Don’t back down.
3) Be accessible. Don’t hide. Hiding is the worst thing you could do right now. Get ion front of the media and answer all their questions as best as you can. Stay as long as you have to, but get it done. Exhaust them, if you have to.
4) Stay cool. Don’t let the media or your political enemies — or anyone for that matter — press your buttons. Speak simply, calmly and directly. Show that you’re serious.
5) Take action. If people need to be suspended or dismissed, do it — and do it as quickly as possible. Show that you mean it when you say that members of your staffwill be held accountable.
6) Don’t let this distract you from everything else that is going on and the rest of your agenda. But, remember that this must be addressed — that the crisis must be handled.
7) Stay focused but look for opportunities to redirect and move on. If handled properly, this will hardly be all-consuming. Keep it in perspective but don’t slough it off.
8) Maintain your sense of humor but use it sparingly, gently and effectively. If you’re going to have a laugh at someone’s expense, have it at your own expense and do it in a manner that people can sympathize with. leave us with a sense that this has made you not just a more effective leader but a better person as well.
9) We all make mistakes. So, it’s OK to just come right out and say: “I made a mistake. I blundered. here’s what I did wrong.” The public understands that and, under the right circumstances, can be very forgiving. We learn from mistakes. And not a one of us has learned all there is to learn.
10) Follow-up where need be. If reforms are needed, use this crisis as an opportunity to push for and enact those reforms. Always, stay in front of the crisis.
Finally, Governor — a personal note: We know you’ve handled much bigger challenges than this. You’ve gone after lots of criminals and thrown them in jail. You gave our state a new sense of confidence and pride. You reformed the pension system, held the line on taxes and brought fiscal responsibility to our state. In our darkest hour, you gave us hope and tireless leadership. You’re going to prevail in this case as well. We know it — and we’re standing with you!