One of the first rules in political issues management is to never be part of the story.
Issues management works in the background, monitoring the news, briefing key staff on unfolding events, offering up counter-attack points and coordinating with communications staff as needed. The aim is to present your boss, in this case the Prime Minister, in the best light to the media and public.
This brings us to the Duffy trial. Why would anyone send the present Director of Issues Management, Nick Koolsbergen, to sit and watch the trial in person? Yes, I know he is supposed to be on leave for the campaign, but if all you wanted to do was watch, listen in an adjoining room and then write a briefing note or report back to the campaign, why be there in person?
Every word was pretty much available from several different reporters who were tweeting the questions and answers as the trial progressed. It could have and should have been followed from inside their campaign office. Doing it that way they would have received all the information they needed without becoming part of the story themselves and without offering the media yet another chance to go at the PM from a different angle on the Duffy trial.
To make matters worse, Koolsbergen was seen talking to one of the witnesses on a break. Really guys? It doesn’t matter that you worked together at one time or that you could be friends. Did no one stop and think about how this might look on the TV screens of the nation?
This little chit chat has given new legs to the story and considering much of the trial has been about scripting people with what they are to say to the media, did they not think the media and through them the public IE voters would be wondering just what was said and if there wasn’t some scripting going on?
Sometimes you just shake your head at how they operate. Is no one there thinking about potential repercussions or perceptions? Who is asking the “what if” questions? Such as what if you are seen talking to a witness, how will the media react or if seen talking to a witness, could the PM get questions on that or if seen would it reflect negatively on the campaign etc.
Remember, your job is to stay out of the story. Becoming the issue in the story doesn’t help your boss and only opens him up to further attacks, the exact opposite of what your job is all about.