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The 3 Things Learned From Mitt Romney's PR Rep
By: Shawn Paul Wood
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A funny thing happened to Mitt Romney during his European vacation — his soon-to-be-former spokesman Rick Gorka managed to get really personal with reporters in a riveting discussion of human anatomy. Now, that would be the PR spin on things. In actuality, according to the Daily Beast, he told a gaggle of reporters to "kiss his a**" and to "shove it." No, really. Check this from HuffPo:

Gorka, Romney's traveling press secretary, told reporters, "Kiss my a**, this is a holy site for the Polish people. Show some respect." He told Politico's Jonathan Martin to "shove it." 

You stay classy, Rick. 

Yes, if ever you had "Want to offend an entire country" on your bucket list, this is the way to do it. Why? Rick not only told these reporters to get familiar with his underregion, but he did so at what many in Poland consider to be a "holy site." Nice, right? Sure, the reporters were acting like prepubescent hacks on a weekend pass, but who could blame them? There have been very few press conferences and room for plenty of questions — see London and Israel for m-a-n-y of those potential concerns. That said, angst was rising and patience was falling. Catch a guy in Poland and hilarity ensures.

This got me thinking, "What PR lessons can we take away from this gaffe-o-matic trip?" 

1. Know your client. On this trip, Romney has shown a propensity to speak out of both sides of his mouth, but he is a calculating and successful businessman. Gorka knows this, and if the boss is not in the mood to do a press conference in Warsaw, that's your only comment. We have a job to represent and referee. At times. If people in the media want your client, it's your job to discover why and how to make it a mutually beneficial conversation. They want content. You want ink. Your client wants his or her point out there. And you would like to keep your job without forgetting to take your happy pills in the morning. 

2. Know your surroundings. The Bible tells us that there is a time and a place for everything. That includes a media opportunity. If you are handling a quaint B2B client, then anywhere is a good location for a press opportunity because those are slim picking at times. However, if you are handling...say, a man who might be President...you need to pick your battles a little better than in front of Warsaw's tomb of the unknown soldier. And if you would like to offer ecumenical etiquette, I would recommend eliminating the term "kiss my ass" from your vernacular. At least, from that one place. 

3. Know you are NEVER off the record. If you are Rick "Gee, that foot tastes like bacon in my mouth" Gorka, you have an inkling that your client is going to ignore all questions, get in his car, and blow off some steam until he gets to the "I-wanna-be-Presidential Suite" at the hotel. You should know that you are to play buffer while this happens. Instead, you give the sound bite to own the next 15 news cycles and it's Cheers all over again, where everyone knows your name. A MEMO to Rick Gorka: You see those red lights? That means the camera is on and the microphones are hot. 

Sure, he's admitted that he "lost his cool." However, he should probably be admitting in the next few days that he lost his job as well. That's PR 101:  There's no such thing as "off the record." A reporter can be your friend (and I have plenty of whom I'm proud to call mine) but I know if there is a story to be found, they have readers who are friendlier than me. They pay bills. I just pay for lunch. Make sense?

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About the Author
Shawn Paul Wood is a hack-turned-flack with more than 20 years of collective journalism, copywriting and marketing communications experience. Shawn Paul is founder of Woodworks Communications in Dallas, Texas. If you need him, ping him here or follow him on Twitter @ShawnPaulWood
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