New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has had a rough couple of weeks. Last week he was the top candidate for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, now his future not so certain. Evidence of the Christie administration purposely closing the George Washington Bridge emerged and has set in motion the latest and greatest example of crisis communication. Since this fact surfaced Christie has been taking considerable heat, including becoming the target of investigation by the federal government.
Image by Boris Rasin
So lets take a look at how he/his administration dealt with the incident.
Immediately after the news broke, he denied and dismissed the allegations. This was his first mistake. His attitude was defiant and dismissive. While no one likes to take blame for something this damaging, he should have made a statement that reflected a bit more concern. Something along the lines of, “To my knowledge my administration took no part in this, but we are investigating the matter thoroughly…”
Last Thursday, Christie held an abnormally long press conference in which he apologized for the actions of his administration. He claimed that he had no knowledge of events that transpired. Media reaction was mainly positive, a win for Christie no doubt. Pending a federal investigation into the matter, Christie’s image may be salvageable after all, at least to a degree. Despite his seemingly sincere apology, his leadership and managerial abilities are still in question. How effective of a leader can he be if he can’t even control his own people, high-ranking ones for that matter? And this is/was the leading candidate to be our next president.
Any remaining damage to Christie’s reputation will have to be owned by him at this point. He used every available tool for controlling the fallout of this incident:
- publicly apologized
- fired and disgraced the people in his administration who were involved
- clearly explained his knowledge and actions during and after the incident
In other words, the textbook public apology plan.
“It’s an art form, the sorry-but-not-really-sorry, because in most cases, what they’re really sorry about is getting caught,” explained Jason Gay, a blogger for the Wall Street Journal.
It is unfortunate that this is the case. I’ve always found these alternative motives to be transparent and naturally expect the person involved has more to hide. Call me a skeptic, but I see it as insight.
The interesting thing about crisis is that once trust has been questioned in an individual or organization, there tends to be a snowball effect. For Christie, this came in the form of a separate Federal investigation into how he used the Hurricane Sandy relief fund.
I find it ironic that Christie gained his political clout because of his offensive communication after the Hurricane Sandy crisis, but now he finds himself on the other end of the spectrum.
It will be interesting to see how this plays out. It would surprise me to see him on the ballot in 2016 after this, but you never know for sure how the public will react.