Archives for category: Issues management

Yesterday’s news about evidence disclosed by the RCMP into Mike Duffy’s expenses has raised some sharp questions about both the character of some key players and about Duffy’s strange hold over some high-ranking politicos.

Image: Cbc.ca

I still cannot understand how on earth Duffy, despite decades as a highly-paid broadcaster (with pensions), could successfully sell the line that he couldn’t come up with any money? Was Old Duff’s confusion and despair so overwhelming that the Conservative Fund and then former PMO chief of staff Nigel Wright thought it was possible Duffy couldn’t afford to pay back what he had taken in improper expenses? Is Duffy some sort of master salesman? The Canadian political version of Dale Carnegie?

Then, despite being told repeatedly that Wright is a stand-up guy, we learn that he was willing to write a cheque to essentially cover up Duffy’s expenses mess. He wanted to save taxpayers from being on the hook, according to his lawyers.

Wright will have to explain how he thought that paying Duffy’s debt and “saving taxpayers’ money” was not only the correct thing to do, but also the kind of action that would work to restore the public’s trust in politicians and teach Old Duff a lesson about cheating on his expenses.

But Wright was only put in this position after the Conservative Fund decided that it could not cover Duffy’s debt.

So, for Conservative Fund boss Senator Irving Gerstein, there are questions about why it’s ok to use taxpayer-subsidized political funds to bail out Duffy his bogus expenses. There’s also a question about why, having already crossed that line, he thought that $30,000 was ok, but $90,000 was too much. Is there perhaps some financial threshold that the Fund uses as a moral yardstick?

And one last question for both Mike Duffy and Pam Wallin: In their decades of working in journalism and filing expense claims, when did they get so lazy or so greedy that they stopped taking responsibility for how they spend someone else’s money?

I also have some questions for myself. As a former journalist, I’m worried I might have the same sort of condition that affected Duffy and Wallin. So I’m checking for the following symptoms:

  • Trying to squeeze as much money out of expenses as possible?
  • Trying to dismiss any concerns about whether the expenses were appropriate?
  • Blaming the rules?
  • Pretending to be contrite?
  • Blaming staff?

One must be vigilant, after all.

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Image: Radio-Canada

Anyone interested in how to ruin a major brand-related announcement should study how Radio-Canada launched Ici and the immediate fallout. Heritage Minister James Moore appears to be quite irritated by the whole thing. It got loads of negative media coverage, including this editorial. It caused many supporters of public broadcasting in Canada to doubt the credibility of CBC/Radio-Canada and of its senior management. Not exactly the impact Ici’s creators were hoping for.

From a communications perspective, here are five questions those managers should have asked before the Ici launch:

  1. Stepping back from the details of the Ici brand, ask yourselves: Do we fully understand the larger context of removing the name Canada from your branding and journalism? Are we prepared accordingly?
  2. Consider your key stakeholders – starting with the federal government that is in the process of defunding and harassing you – and make sure they’re informed, in the right way, at the right time. Are you prepared to explain in a clear and compelling way why Rad-Can will now be known as Ici? What about other groups such as Rad-Can and CBC employees, unions (which are particularly pissed about the cost of at least $400,000 in the midst of budget cuts), Francophone groups, the media, broadcasting support groups, and even the opposition parties?
  3. Consider your specific explanation for why the word “Canada” is no longer necessary for a broadcaster that serves Francophones across Canada? After multiple explanations from CBC VP Bill Chambers, it is still as clear as mud.
  4. Consider the issue environment and factors affecting public broadcasting. Ensure that you’re not making the announcement at the same time as, for example, a Tory Backbencher quit the party caucus over the Conservatives sucking the life out of his accountability and transparency bill that would have affected CBC/Radio-Canada?
  5. Ask yourselves: Hey, is this even a good idea? Why do we need to do this? What is wrong with the Radio Canada brand? What’s the urgency? How is creating Ici going to provide better programming and service to Francophone Canadians? How can we – in the broadest sense – justify this decision?

This whole issue pains me. I used to work at the CBC and I know that its employees don’t need to be reminded again of the ineptitude of senior management in a time when budgets are being cut and a cultural battle is being waged against public broadcasting. As a supporter of public broadcasting, I can only shake my head.