Chris Christie, Hurricane Sandy and the Rules of Crisis Communication

Chris Christie, Hurricane Sandy and the Rules of Crisis Communication

Cross Posted at Dan Cirucci’s Blogspot


Let’s get this out of the way.

People are asking us to opine on the Christie/Obama bear hug so we’re just gonna have to go down this road.

To begin: Just as Chris Christie was the first governor to come out and support Romney and just as Chris Christie worked damned hard for Romney, this blog was among the first to support Chris Christie for governor nearly four years ago and we’ve spent countless hours helping to advance Christie and his agenda and his cause.

And we make no apologies for it. We’re damned proud of it.

We love Chris Christie.

But loving Christie is not like loving any other politician. He’s real, he’s three-dimensional, he’s smart and he can be unpredictable, if not exasperating. Though his quips and answers are often entertaining and may sometimes seem simple, they’re not. They reflect the mind of a man who is relentlessly pragmatic and admirably goal-oriented. This is a man who does not follow — in fact, who defies — any rigid idealogical path. He cannot be pegged or contained or compartmentalized.

So, when Christie saw Superstorm Sandy coming, he had one thought in mind: Get out ahead of it; get ready and use every means at our disposal to help the people of New Jersey — to warn them, to fortify them, to serve them and to protect them.

Having been involved in public relations for more than four decades, we can tell you that by the rules of crisis communication that we teach, Christie instinctively did what he was supposed to do. He became not only the chief spokesperson in this crisis but the unquestioned leader of the response to it.
And he has worked damned hard, without a break for two weeks now often putting in 14 and 20 hour days. Some nights he got little more than five hours sleep.

This sort of thing is all consuming.

And you can quickly lose perspective.

You see so much damage, so much devastation, so much sorrow in a place you love. This is your home — and you see it in shambles. This is what Christie saw. This is a man who loves his home state. This is what he encountered.

And so, when it came to the situation with President Obama, perhaps without even being aware of it, Chris Christie seemed to journey from appropriate gratitude to a sort of gushing, near-adulation. His words were beyond effusive. And generally speaking, so were his actions.

It confounded a lot of people.

They couldn’t understand it, but we could.

Not because we were in the middle of the rubble with Christie. We weren’t. Thank goodness, this little corner of the state was largely spared.

We understood it because we understand the nature of crisis and crisis communication.

Chris Christie was totally caught up in it. He was on the inside — not looking out, but just completely consumed on the inside trying to find a way out for our state. And many of us were on the outside — not looking in, but just peeking at bits of pieces of what was happening; just small slices of the enormity of it all, incapable of absorbing just how all-consuming something like this is.

It was predictable that the Obama campaign would jump at the chance to gain from all this. After all, it was Rahm Emanuel himself who said “never waste a good disaster.”

Were we happy that President Obama’s campaign got a Big Boost at just the right moment from one of the most credible and compelling public figures in America? No. We knew what the political ramifications might be.

Were we surprised that the dominant media would take advantage of this Great Big Bear Hug and perfect-perfect bromance and wildly herald it as a new standard of bi-partisan cooperation just when America needed it? No.

And we weren’t surprised that the media kept showing theChristie/Obama clips over and over and over again. They reveled in it.

And we also weren’t surprised when Obama left Jersey once the photo ops and the PR mission had been accomplished.

Nor are we surprised that it’s Chris Christie who now continues to do the hard work (the real ground work) of managing the crisis day after day after day.

So, as best as we can explain it, this is what happened. The devastation. The damage. The cameras. The white-hot national spotlight. The intensity. The exhaustive hours. It took its toll. And it threw things out of perspective.

It’s not like we expect Chris Christie to revisit anything he did or how he acted. He’s got way too much to deal with to embark on that kind of journey. Besides, Christie’s just not that kind of guy. We understand that. It’s alright.

We also understands that he’s neither shy nor unassuming nor afraid of (nor uncomfortable in) the spotlight.

But we hope that the Governor can take a breather soon — to step out of the middle of it; to walk away from it for awhile; to decompress.

We think he needs it. He needs to let go for awhile.

We say this because we care about him and we want him to continue be well, prosper and succeed.



15 thoughts on “Chris Christie, Hurricane Sandy and the Rules of Crisis Communication

  1. Totally agree with this analysis!

    I'm a big Christie guy for many of those reasons, even though I moved back to PA after 17 years.

    To his critics on the Right or wherever who don't get it … too bad.

    Compare his leadership, his can-do Jersey attitude to the almost completely dysfunctional example of NY Governor Andrew Cuomo and NYC Mayor Bloomberg. The tone-deafness around the long refusal to cancel the NYC Marathon should have been a clue. The disaster in the Rockaways, Long Island, and Staten Island with some people not expected by the utility to get power back until CHRISTMAS – maybe – is a disgrace. Enough said. Christie leads & inspires … New Jersey is going to be OK, eventually, and due in part to his attitude. But what are Cuomo & Bloomberg doing?

  2. Christie—THE BUFFOON—got to talk to Springsteen the Commie and cried like a fan-boy. So the fact that THE BUFFOON helped get Milhous re-elected is okay–because he spoke to his idol. l repeat–BUFFOON.

    (What has Milhous done for NJ since the Buffoon Hug?????)

  3. Nice try. When you have to offer this many excuses, you know they are just that – excuses. Christie is a smart man. He's been in the spotlight long enough to know better and you expect us to believe that now all of a sudden he's overwhelmed?

    And telling us that he cried talking to Commie Springsteen (who circumvents paying his fair share in taxes with a few llamas on his property!I was a huge springsteen fan and will no longer listen to his music and turn off the radio when he's on. Never liked bon jovi, so his lame music was always turned off anyway)

    This has really taken him down a bunch of notches. I'm sure he'll win again in NJ, but nationally I'm betting it's over for him. Besides, no one from the North East gets elected for President (except for Kennedy and that did not end well).

    Can we just accept the fact that he goofed up and admit it, stop making excuses for him and move on?

    Excuses are almost worse than what he did. They sound pathetic.

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