99 Problems, but a PR pitch ain't one
TO: Ursula von der Leyen, European Commission president
CC: Eric Mamer, chief Commission spokesperson
BCC: Martin Selmayr, Commissioner-at-large
RE: Crisis communications and media re-training
How was your weekend? LOL just kidding! Seems you’ve had a bumpy few days and nights on the PR front and Storymachine is here to help – informally, of course. We know you terminated our contract last year after some media transparency bedwetters complained about it. But we think it’s time to fire up the ‘machine again – and we can do it pro bono. Well, sort of: we found some unused hours from our last four monthly invoices.
It’s clear you need some help, Madam President! As everyone knows, the Commission has no internal communications expertise or infrastructure. Apart from a fully staffed DG, several framework contracts with external communications agencies, state-of-the-art in-house TV studios, cavernous press briefing rooms with translation booths, and several subsidised European media outlets you hold in your pocket like so many nickels and dimes, there’s nothing you can really rely on when shots are fired. Sorry, bad choice of words.
We’ve already subjected some focus groups to the Storymachine audit process and fed them your recent communications on social and broadcast media. We can now offer a few thought-starters that could help inoculate you against further trouble (dammit there we go again!):
· Crisis communications: It would seem you’ve misunderstood this term. Ideally it should mean that your communications help end a crisis, not start one.
· Messaging: You need to be bolder, not afraid to take sides – or, in the best-case scenario, one side. We know you are constrained by Commission rules and that you still "do not comment on national domestic matters". But a range of tools are at your disposal to convey Europe’s condemnation, ranging from a pointed sigh, a well-timed eye roll, or an exasperated tone of voice. When you need to act quickly you can consult the app we built for you: the EU Official React-o-Meter™ (which you will find attached). In light of the recent fallout, we also advise against going "full stella". Maybe introduce further escalation of normal procedures with a really reasoned opinion, or letter of very formal notice delivered by someone in uniform with a stern demeanour.
· Syntax: It’s perhaps too clear and refined. It’s taken many years of learnings but we now know that faux sincerity doesn’t resonate with people. Your predecessor had more success by making less sense and seeming not to care very much. Try jumbling up some words, or losing your temper, or switching languages in the middle of idiom, or having champagne for breakfast.
· Optics: Not sure the phone-call portraits are working. Frankly, most of the demographic doesn’t even know what that thing is you’re holding up to your head.
· Secret weapon: Don’t be afraid to push the little blue button on the side of your desk – the one that goes to the Vienna office… 😉
Ok that’s enough medicine for now (sorreee!). We look forward to working with you again – and don’t worry about people finding out about our new arrangement. As we say to all our clients: “When your communications project is handled by Storymachine, no one will ever know about it”.