An Open Letter to Herman Cain: Handle This Crisis Or You Are Finished

After an inspiring rise in the political campaign, in the last 48 hours your campaign is rapidly imploding Mr. Cain, and if you don’t turn this around quickly, your campaign is a wrap and a brief line in your obituary.  Watching your initial reaction on camera of a Reporter confronting you on the allegations was the definition of a “deer in headlights.”  You looked lost and confused.

You have said that sexual harassment allegations against you are false after it came out in Politico that two women made the charges in the 1990s.  Furthermore, the report said that settlements were made that involved monetary payments and the signing of nondisclosures by the two unnamed women.  The resulting headlines were some of the worst for crisis management.  “Cain: I was Falsely Accused And Never Sexually Harassed Anyone” (WSJ, November 1, 2011) is par for the course. All the public sees and remembers from a headline like that is Cain…Accused…Sexual Harassment.

Working extensively in crisis PR, some unsolicited advice from someone who has seen his share of bold face name crises.

  • The truth will out. Tell it.  The accusations may in deed be false, but if agreements were signed something happened even if it wasn’t harassment.  Get out in front of the story and tell the truth – exactly what you know and all of what you know to diffuse reporters and take the wind out of their sails.  Do it now – this story wont go away.  Tackle it aggressively and do so immediately.  You won’t be able to outwork this issue or change the topic.

“People have a barometer of truth inside them and you can’t convince anyone of anything that they don’t already feel from you at a gut level,” says my friend Dr. Keith Ablow. I agree; while I’m all for being positive, you have to come to it honestly.

  • After you have addressed it, reframe the debate. Don’t ignore it. Go for the jugular instead.  Obviously the story is part of opposition research, which the press is more than eager to help out with especially when it concerns a conservative black Republican candidate.

Make that case for reporters – it’s what you should have done at the National Press Club the other day. Explaining to your audience why this is coming up now, when you are ahead in the polls, would have been more effective and sympathetic than joking about a topic many people, especially women voters, take seriously. Once you’ve told the truth – all of it so there’s nothing more to tell or investigate – flip the script and start nailing your opponents on the weaknesses of their policy.

  • Do your own opposition research. If you’re not doing it, start. This is when the game of politics starts getting dirty. Make sure it’s straight forward and truthful information that deals with policy and character issues.

Mr. Cain:  Now is the time to handle this, and if not, well before the weekend comes your campaign is a wrap.

Ronn Torossian is CEO of 5WPR, 1 of the 25 largest PR agencies in the US, and author of “For Immediate Release: Shape Minds, Build Brands, and Deliver Results with Game-Changing Public Relations” an Amazon best selling Public Relations book available for purchase at:
http://www.amazon.com/Immediate-Release-Deliver-Game-Changing-Relations/dp/1936661160/ref=ntt_at_ep_dpt_1

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