Archive for June, 2009

Everyone needs to unplug, sometimes

With numerous stories in the mainstream media (MSM) covering the recent “disappearance,” of South Carolina Governor, Mark Sanford, I felt the need to chime in to support* a fellow woodsman.

The story made its way into the national spotlight after those close to Sanford (including office aides and his wife) were unable to contact him or confirm his whereabouts for four full days. Coverage of the story ran rampant in the MSM Monday evening and early Tuesday morning partially due to the recent controversy surrounding Sanford’s decision to reject $700 million from the federal stimulus bill.

During the day Tuesday, reports came out saying that Sanford had been hiking on the Appalachian Trail. He was reported to have left Thursday evening without making his plans known and turned off his cell phone before heading into the woods.

If it were up to me, I’d give this guy a pass. With my experience, I understand the importance of unplugging in order to recharge. There’s a certain Thoreau-vian aspect to Sanford’s “vacation” that I can also appreciate. A short excerpt for folks who are unfamiliar:

“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life… I wanted to live so sturdily and so Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life… to drive life into a corner to know it by experience and be able to give an account of it in my next excursion.” — Thoreau, Henry David

Me living deliberately
Me living deliberately

What poor Gov. Sanford failed to realize, is that we’re in the 2st century, and the ability to be constantly connected is an expectation — especially if you’re a high ranking government official.

*While I support Sanford’s decision to retreat for a few days for peace of mind, I think he would’ve benefited from letting his security team (and wife) know where he was headed (not to mention the taxpayers who pay his salary).

The PR lesson in this is one of transparency, based in openness and honesty. While not everyone (including those in the MSM) will understand the need to retreat to the wilderness, Sanford could’ve saved himself a lot of bad press simply by saying he was taking a vacation.

What do you think? Are Sanford’s actions acceptable? Understandable? Share your thoughts in the comments below…

***UPDATE***

As it turns out, Gov. Sanford was actually in Argentina for six days, NOT on the Appalachian trial.

Argentina, Appalachia, what’s the difference, right?

I’d blame this on a miscued text and chalk it up to T9, but I don’t think that’s the case.Plus, Sanford left his cell phone behind triggering this whole mess in the first place.

As this story develops and Sanford has to answer to questions of where he’s been and why, it further enforces the point that TRANSPARENCY from the beginning could’ve helped the Governor avoid this whole mess — that is, of course, if his actions are reputable.

June 23, 2009 at 6:21 PM 6 comments

I-Ran, but couldn’t hide…

OR…

What the aftermath of the Iranian election shows us about the power of social media.

Unless you’ve been hiding under “Iraq” (I swear that’s the last pun on a Middle Eastern country name in this post), you’ve heard about the turmoil in Iran in response to a hasty vote count of highly speculated presidential election. Despite the Iranian government’s efforts to keep out foreign media personnel and control the increasing unrest amongst citizens, word is getting out.

Regardless of political leanings, nationality or religion, it’s safe to say that the state of society in Iran is a mess — and the whole world knows it.

This morning I woke up to my daily dose of CNN to find out that Iran’s government officials were blocking certain web sites and interfering with cell phone signals and other methods of communication. Where did Iranian citizens turn? You need only ask Sylvester.

Tweety-bird (my pet name for Twitter) helped carry the message of thousands of Iranians and millions more around the world as the masses sought democracy and freedom.

If you missed the chatter (and, I don’t blame you) you can check out the #freeiran
or #iranelection search pages.

So what does this tell us about Public Relations and social media?

It tells us that, as organizations (governmental or not) no matter how much we try to hide that big, fat, ugly, half-fuchsia-half-chartreuse, (did I mention BIG?) elephant in the room, IT AIN’T GONNA HAPPEN.

SM’s created a new dynamic amidst the people. We’re not living in the same world where the market place of ideas can be stifled by the broom and the rug of administrative action.

Give credit to technology, the Internet, social media or Twitter if you want, but the fact is that this is the result of the people. The tools they use are just instruments of empowerment. And governments, corporations and NGOs all need to realize it.

The sooner the better.

Let me hear your thoughts. It’s been awhile since I’ve posted, so let me know if it’s worth your while.

Images courtesy of cartoonstore.net & birdsinthebelfry.com, respectively.

June 16, 2009 at 4:32 PM Leave a comment


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