Tell it first, tell it yourself and tell it all. That is the tried and true formula for handling a messy public relations crisis in the smoothest possible way.

When Tiger Woods let 13 hours lapse after Friday’s early-morning accident without issuing an explanation, he ceded control of his story not only to legitimate news outlets, but also to celebrity gossip mongers on the hunt for a tale –- made up or otherwise -– of adultery and mayhem. The story of Tiger’s first major off-the-course bogey was in their sights and the race was on to fill in the juicy details.

Woods hired attorney Mark NeJame, which shouldn’t raise eyebrows -– after all, the police are investigating Woods’ crash -– but repeatedly declining to be interviewed by the police makes it look like he has... +Continue Reading


WASHINGTON — Presidents get elected to run the  nation. Some days that means knowing how to heal it.

For the first time since winning the White House,  President Barack Obama faces such a moment  Tuesday at Fort Hood. It his job to offer comfort, if not  answers, after the shooting that left 13 people dead and  29 wounded on the bustling Texas Army post five days  ago.

Obama will privately console families of those killed, and then publicly pay respects at a memorial service sure to be watched by American troops around the world. He and first lady Michelle Obama will also visit wounded troops in the hospital before returning to Washington.

This is Obama’s time to take on healer role that can help shape a presidency at a time of national tragedy.

Obama’s... +Continue Reading


A few weeks ago, the Sporting News ran predictions for the baseball playoffs. I was stunned to see one name on the list of guest forecasters: Mark McGwire.

Mr. McGwire completely disappeared after his disastrous day in front of Congress in 2005. To see a quote attributed to him, even for something as mundane as a playoff pick, caught me off guard.

It got me wondering if Mr. McGwire would ever try to repair his name.

The answer came much sooner than anyone expected with Tony LaRussa’s announcement that Mr. McGwire would be the Cardinals’ hitting coach next year. Now that one was a real stunner.

The Cardinals still haven’t made Mr. McGwire available to the press, but they said he will speak. When he does, expect that he finally will admit that steroids helped... +Continue Reading


WASHINGTON — He is fighting two wars, trying to tame a recession and seeking to remake one-sixth of the American economy by overhauling health care. But President Obama is also the world’s best-known Chicagoan. So should he leave his day duties to fly to Denmark to help his adopted hometown win the right to host the Olympics?

Chicago thinks so, or at least some of the city’s leadership does. In the waning days of its bid for the Summer Olympics of 2016, the city is pressuring its favorite son to put it over the top by making an appearance at the International Olympic Committee meeting in Copenhagen next month. It does not hurt that one of the city’s top boosters is Valerie Jarrett, the president’s close friend and White House adviser.

Aides said Thursday that no final... +Continue Reading


WASHINGTON – Barack Obama is hardly the first president to speak at a public school. He’s not even the first to plan a live telecast from a classroom.

President George H.W. Bush did that in 1991, and without stirring anything close to the ferocious backlash the Obama administration has faced in North Texas and elsewhere.

But almost two decades later, the country is far more polarized. The media culture moves at relative hyperspeed. Conservative critics are more ready to pounce on Obama, even when he’s urging students to stay in school and out of trouble – just as Bush did back then.

The uproar this week prompted hundreds of complaints to Dallas-area school officials, and calls for sickouts so students could avoid “left wing indoctrination” during Tuesday’s speech.... +Continue Reading


They represented a controversial president during a time of an unpopular war and a major economic crisis. And now, the former members of George W. Bush’s communications staff are ready for anything. In the six months since Bush left office, ex-White House flacks have landed well — in the corporate world and the athletic world. And yes, the political world too.

Dana Perino, Bush’s third White House press secretary, started out the year with a monthlong trip to Africa. Upon her return, she followed in the footsteps of the first-ever female press secretary, Dee Dee Myers: She’s joined the ranks of cable news commentators.

Perino says she has been approached with many offers since departing the White House. She considered writing, particularly as an opinion columnist, but in... +Continue Reading


I am not sure how many people — especially animal lovers — Michael Vick won over with his news conference Friday in Philadelphia and his “60 Minutes” interview Sunday night. But he got me.

Sure, I reserve the requisite amount of skepticism for all athlete comebacks these days, but I believe that Vick is sorry for his crimes and understands that only his actions will convince people he has changed.

There were four moments in Sunday night’s exclusive “60 Minutes” interview that convinced me:

• When James Brown confronted Vick with a graphic recitation of the acts associated with the Bad Newz Kennels dogfighting operation, then asked him, “For those who may say it showed a... +Continue Reading


WASHINGTON — Three guys, sitting around a picnic table, having a cold one.
Beer diplomacy? The “teachable moment” the president promised? Or just a way for the White House to get people to quit talking about the president’s comments on a racial brouhaha in Massachusetts?
When Barack Obama meets Thursday with the black professor and white policeman at the center of a national uproar over race relations, he is aiming for a show that will get positive news coverage and then go away.

“There’s no formal agenda other than cold beer,” press secretary Robert Gibbs said Tuesday.
That’s not quite the teachable moment on racial unity that Obama talked about last Friday when he moved to undercut the controversy that had knocked him off message. Pressed about that, Gibbs... +Continue Reading


On my first day as White House communications director back in July 2006, I stuck my head in Tony Snow’s office to say hello. He bounded from behind his desk and said, “Come on — I want to show you something.”

Tony, who had been press secretary for a little over two months, led me out of the West Wing and up the driveway toward the Northwest Appointments Gate. “I do this almost every day,” he said. When we got close to the Secret Service guardhouse on Pennsylvania Avenue, Tony instructed me to turn around and look back at the North Portico of the White House.

“Look at that,” he gushed. “Isn’t that neat? That’s where we get to work. When I worked here the first time, for President Bush 41, I was too young and too stupid to appreciate it. This time I’m not going to take it... +Continue Reading


The way-too-cute, pre-arranged Huffington Post moment in Tuesday’s Presidential press conference was actually a good idea, poorly executed. President Obama answering a question from an Iranian citizen is an inspired notion – but one that would have been more appropriate as on online chat at than a planted question in a press conference.

But make no mistake: President Obama’s use of digital media platforms has not only been effective, it is redefining Presidential communications.

Looking back through history, however, a pattern becomes clear: The contributions made by the pioneer of each new medium are largely forgotten when his successor – with the benefit of further advancements in technology and broader adoption of the new medium – masters it.

... +Continue Reading