Like many political and public affairs news stories, I’ve been following the Rob Ford debacle from the perspective of a communicator. Which means, I’m constantly analysing the words key players are saying and the way they’re delivering them.
Earlier today I saw Toronto City Councillor (and mayoral candidate) Karen Stintz respond to the misogynistic comments about her captured in an audio recording and allegedly spoken by Rob Ford. I saw both her press conference and a few of her interviews. And, I watched them through my public affairs lens.
While watching an interview she gave on CTV, I tweeted (with my public affairs hat on), “Is it just me, or does Karen Stintz come across as overly surgical in the delivery of her response to Rob Ford?”
Like all tweets, it lacked context and substance. If you don’t know what field I’m in and if you weren’t watching the same coverage as I was, you wouldn’t understand my question.
Now, I’ll try to explain what was missing from that 111-character tweet.
Ms. Stintz was spectacular when she said “Rob Ford’s comments were gross.” She said the right words the right way. In fact, her passion and phrasing when responding directly to Rob Ford’s remarks were spot on. She was smart to say “gross” rather than soften the matter for the sake of being diplomatic. She commanded attention. That’s a great quality in a mayor.
Then, as she switched to campaign mode, the communicator in me feels she made two slips.
In both her presser and in her interview, Ms. Stintz’ wishes to Rob Ford’s wife and children seemed rushed and insincere. I completely understand why she might not want to send good wishes to them, or that she needed to rush through the statement to maintain her composure. I don’t fault her for that. If I was her comms advisor and saw a potentially dispassionate delivery in rehearsal, I would have yanked those words from the script. I believe it’s better not to say them (would anyone notice they were missing or judge her under the circumstances) than to appear as though someone insisted you march out and say them. Rob Ford has already proven disembodied apologies to be ineffective.
Second, I feel Ms. Stintz overplayed the “On October 27…” message. She seemed to use it, or a variation of it, at the end of each of her statements. The excessive repetition distracted from the fact that Ford’s comments were gross. It appeared as though she was trying to place herself in the poll position in the mayoral race rather than let people decide she belongs there. My recommendation would have been to use it once early in the discussion and once at the conclusion.
Ms. Stintz is a candidate in the race for mayor. She needs to show voters what kind of mayor she can be.