This guest column by the co-partner of TannerFriedman strategic communications originally was posted Wednesday night at that Farmington Hills agency's blog.
By Matt Friedman
Michigan State University’s president appears to have accomplished a PR first. When can you ever remember a resignation letter worsening a crisis?
Take it from someone who pays attention to such things, this is unfathomably awful. Before you read the rest of this post, please make sure you read the resignation letter here.
There is so much wrong with this arrogant, gutless, insensitive and irresponsible letter that it proves -- perhaps once and for all -- that Simon was either ignoring or refusing reasonable PR counsel over the past week of calamity, during which not one iota of leadership was shown. Only an ego big enough for one of the largest campuses in the country could drive this text. It clearly proves that she didn't get it and has led a broken culture.
These are some of the lowlights:
- In the first sentence, she equates herself to victims of abuse, reeking of callousness.
- She uses the words "cover up" voluntarily and deliberately, violating a key principle of crisis communications.
- Instead of focusing on the best interest of the school, which should have been her primary job as its president, she drones on and on about me, me, me.
- She claims the tragedy has been "politicized," obviously blaming the elected officials who called for her resignation after her displays of insensitivity. They include two members [Dianne Byrum and Btrian Breslin] of the popularly elected board to which she reports.
In letters like this, the rule of thumb tends to be "less is more." The primary objective should be to help the institution move forward.
But in this case, to paraphrase the university's football coach, the PR crisis isn't over. In some ways, it's just getting started.