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Rob Ford’s PR Nightmare

Posted At: January 2, 2014 11:25 p.m.
by Ashley Jones

Pure chaos is the only way to describe the Rob Ford saga. Over the past six months, the mayor of Canada’s largest city has garnered international attention after his binge-drinking and crack-smoking habits were revealed for the entire world to see.

Despite the ongoing scandal, Toronto’s embattled mayor has embraced the media spotlight and remains confident in being re-elected next year when the city holds its mayoral election. Just this morning, he filed nomination papers to run for re-election as Toronto’s mayor. Will the voters of Toronto be able to separate Ford’s personal drama from his on-the-job performance? Several political strategists and public relations specialists seem to think so.

From a series of never-ending personal controversies that include distracted driving, public intoxication allegations, video footage of him smoking crack cocaine, alleged encounters with prostitutes and his most recent controversy, being caught on video in a violent rant, the scandal-plagued mayor has somehow managed to maintain a 44 percent approval rating. However, many Toronto citizens are pressuring him to resign after the latest revelations of his illegal drug use and erratic behavior.

If Ford is serious about revamping his reputation and being elected for a second term, he should listen to the advice that PR professionals worldwide are giving him:

1. For starters, don’t refer to the media as “a bunch of maggots.”

Referring to the media as soft-bodied, legless larva will probably never earn you positive media attention. Though he later apologized for his critical remarks, the damage was already done.

2. Stay away from an international media campaign.

Ford recently announced an upcoming U.S. media blitz to defend himself on CNN and Fox News. Although it makes for an entertaining interview, the mayor won’t be able to reach his local constituents in Toronto through U.S. media outlets. Ford’s embarrassing actions have brought enough negative publicity to the city of Toronto, so voluntarily putting himself in the international media spotlight will only prolong the global ridicule. Besides, Ford has already landed himself on the wrong side of U.S. late-night talk show jokes from Saturday Night Live and comedians Jon Stewart, Jay Leno and Jimmy Fallon.

3. Be sincere.

Rather than showing true remorse and taking responsibility for his lewd behavior, Ford seemed more interested in being a tabloid celebrity than the city’s mayor. Earlier in the week, Ford was asked to stay away from public events such as the Canadian Football League playoffs and Toronto’s annual Santa Claus parade. Instead, he ignored the request and crashed the Toronto Argonauts’ playoff game, which caused a scene with fans inside the stadium.

Ford should seek professional help for his drug and alcohol problem in order to prove to voters that he is committed to improving himself as well as the city’s reputation.

4. The truth will set you free.

Mayor Ford’s response to the scandalous allegations being made against him raised more questions than it answered. During an initial news conference following the release of a video of him smoking from a crack pipe, Ford addressed the issue indirectly, deferring all discussion to the 2014 mayoral election where he said Toronto citizens could judge him then with their votes.

Instead, the mayor should have opened up to the community about his personal struggles and his vow to overcome them. He might have been surprised by people’s compassion for his situation and their willingness to forgive.

In every crisis, there is an opportunity to learn and become stronger. By being honest and demonstrating proper crisis management strategies, Mayor Rob Ford can put a halt to the melodrama he created and potentially save his political career.

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