Everyone needs to unplug, sometimes

June 23, 2009 at 6:21 PM 6 comments

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.

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6 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Amanda  |  June 24, 2009 at 10:11 AM

    Good points all around- as much as we’d all love to “log off” sometimes, a person of high profile simply cannot disappear for days at a time with no one noticing. I understand Sanford has been pretty busy and I’m sure he needed a break; however, not having an answer for when the media asks his whereabouts? Bad idea. And not even leaving a note for his wife? Worse idea.

  • 2. Ruth Seeley  |  June 24, 2009 at 12:39 PM

    The more connected you are the more you need to log off – my best vacations when working for a global PR firm were the ones spent at my family cottage without a landline or a cell phone, getting up at sunrise and going to bed at sunset, reading a book a day and ingesting no ‘news’ in any way, shape or form.

    I’m pretty sure elected officials need that kind of vacation even more than PR folks and other news junkies. So we’re quibbling about the way he handled his need for a time out? Or are we quibbling about his having had the temerity to take a time out?

  • 3. Chris  |  June 24, 2009 at 1:01 PM

    Amanda, I’m wondering how you would react to a note reading: “Off to Argentina for a week, Chao.” 😀

    Ruth,
    You’re idea of a vacation sounds wonderful. While I generally trade the cottage for a tent, you’re right to say that the point is to log off and tune out.

    Re: Mr. Sanford, I think the major issue is a lack of communication. While there are some folks out there who are just jealous of his vacation, not being up front about his activities opened the door to speculators (who in this case were fueled by the MSM). At least if he was upfront he’d only have to answer to the former.

  • 4. Ruth Seeley  |  June 24, 2009 at 1:44 PM

    Well it turns out there was both smoke AND fire there, huh? Those bewitching South Americans – how can a mere North American woman compete? 😉

  • 5. Chris  |  June 24, 2009 at 2:47 PM

    Yes, as it turns out, Sanford DID have something to hide. Fundamental PR says there’s no amount of good communication that can overtake bad actions.

    As for me, my NA woman is all I need.

  • 6. Bill Sledzik  |  June 25, 2009 at 6:08 AM

    Wow, did this one unravel quickly. How many times do we have to go through this? Men cheat, then they lie about it. When the men are prominent, the saturation media environment means somebody’s gonna find out about it — and quickly.

    I don’t want to moralize. Sanford has done what millions of men have done before him. But you think maybe he’d have learned from Bill Clinton, Eliot Spitzer, et. al. Welcome to the media fishbowl, and another career ending move?

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