Before you lump me in with 'Friends of Ghomeshi' campaign - I'll start off by saying that no sides here. This isn't a 'he did it' or 'they were wrong' debate. There are so many factors to this heated debate - and I neither have worked with nor alongside Jian in my 20 year career, and my one lunch 'meet up' did not constitute a date, nor did it resonate much on my 'perv' meter.
No, this post is from a pure PR perspective on the crisis communications approach that was made on the part of Jian, and my take on it.
#Ghomeshigate certainly brings up a myriad of surrounding issues: Unions and its role in protection of workers, duty and brand of CBC as a long standing Canadian institution, issues of non-consensual violence against women, the BDSM/kink/leather communities place on the equal rights spectrum. .... we could be here all day.
The truth is, if you've read the headlines, you've already formed your opinion.
Jian knows media. And whether his initial response was construed by a PR firm or by mostly his own steering; he took us somewhere, and began a dialogue in which he cleverly, and perhaps unknowingly, framed how this drama would unfold in the coming weeks and why it gave him the jump on public opinion, even before it went completely 'public'. (Which in the Twitterverse was approx 2.4 hours.)
Triple A approach:
For those who have not had the pleasure to partake in a crisis communications scenario - Amid the flurry of panic that ensues when one finds themselves or their company under negative scrutiny, Catalyst CC has developed and stands by our Triple 'A' approach (Accessibility, Action, Accountability) and its effectiveness for CEOs, brands and yes, even radio hosts.
Let's break down Jian's now famous, chess-like Facebook post:
1. Accessibility: Facebook - by taking his message to this massive forum Jian was forthcoming (to be seen?) in his actions and opened himself up - to judgement and scrutiny yes, but perhaps more heavily weighted - to SYMPATHY painted on a landscape of Reasonable Doubt.
He knew people could leave comments, he knew the storm was coming, but he did it anyway. Oh, and he did it FAST! I don't think CBC had time to blink or reconsider their misguided 'no comment' comment, before people had already begun forming opinions of not only Jian, but of the CBC's actions!
2. Action: Well, he took action alright, $50 million action. Because once you make such staunch public opinion about something, you have to follow it up with: What are you going to do about that? Jian had to take immediate action. It was a big forum, so he had to go big. This also conveniently shifts any other waffling opinions into "there has to be more substance here if he's willing to go that far" territory.
All in all: Points Ghomeshi
3. Accountability: He begins and ends this taboo public declaration by reminding us why we should love and trust him. As a journalist with CBC for a 14 year career it is his job, nay, his duty to deliver the open, honest truth that we have all come to expect and trust.
Points. Slow clap.
I mean, this proves nothing, of course. Only that, when it comes to forming public opinion, there is a right way and a delayed you-snooze-you-lose-way. Jian knows media, and he got the jump on saying his piece.
Media, take it from here:
I think he can now let the media machine take over, turn it into a million different story angles, package it alongside social, HR and legal issues even good old fashion Canadian values - all which will do its job: Create more of the conversation away from'did he do it?', 'was it right?'.
In truth, there is much to uncover here - are the allegations of the women justified and true, does the CBC have more evidence than they are revealing which led to the abrupt dismissal, is Ghomeshi just a savvy silver tongued devil who is trying to salvage the next five years of his career?... time will only tell.
I am thankful every day that I get to choose my clients and frame my positioning around strategies that are steeped in authenticity, openness and leadership. I can then act as a guardrail and messaging champion, steering the direction and sometimes the actions of my clients.
It's a great gig - if you're on the right side.
And that's the way I see it...