Recovering from a Bobby Jindal Moment

Posted 02.27.2009

OK, so you know your big speech didn’t go so well when, the next day, you’re being compared in a side by side screen shot with Kenneth the NBC page from 30 Rock.  That’s the situation for Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal who gave the televised GOP response to President Obama’s non-State of the Union address on Tuesday night.   Roundly panned for lack of substance, condescending tone and robotic body language, Jindal (who everyone agrees is a really smart guy), responded to the criticism by immediately leaving for Disney World.

I’m not joking

What would have been a more productive response on his part?

Eve Tahmincioglu of the Career Diva blog went to the trouble of interviewing communications coach Shawn Driscoll to get her advice.  Driscoll offers a neat little model called ARC:  Acknowledge your poor performance.  Reframe it into the story going forward.  Choose your venue and approach for getting the new story out.

By bailing out to Disney World, Governor Jindal blew his chance to do anything and the story has gone viral on him in no time.  Now, you as a leader may not be giving a speech on all of the cable channels anytime soon, but people will be watching your communications on an ongoing basis and judging it.  It’s not necessarily fair or fun, but it’s true.  As a leader, you are always on stage and you have more critics constantly reviewing your performance than you’re likely aware of.

Sometimes, you’re going to mess things up.  It just comes with the territory.  When you do, acknowledge it.  (Did you notice the kind of “Can you believe it?” coverage Obama got when he acknowledged to all the network anchors a few weeks ago that he “screwed up” the Daschle nomination for HHS secretary?)  Then reframe your message.  Tune in to what people reacted to and retell the story in a way that addresses that.  Finally, choose an approach that enables you to connect with people on both the intellectual and emotional levels.

And then, if all that fails, get on the next plane to Orlando.