The PR Lessons of the Palin Prank Call


Tonight, Gov. Sarah Palin was punk’d by two Montreal radio station comedians who convinced her that French President Nicolas Sarkozy was calling to wish her and Sen. John McCain well in the closing days of their campaign. How the Secret Service and the McCain-Palin campaign staff allowed the governor to be put in this position is the subject of another blog post.

I’m more interested in the responses that the spokespeople for Palin and her Vice Presidential opponent Sen. Joe Biden.

Frankly, I’d give both spokespeople high marks. Palin’s spokesperson managed to dismiss the situation with wit and a self-deprecating sense of humor, while Biden’s spokesperson successfully used the episode to reinforce the doubts the some voters have about Palin’s candidacy.

Here’s the audio of the prank on Gov. Palin: 

Here’s the statement from Gov. Palin’s spokesperson:

“Governor Palin received a phone call on Saturday from a French Canadian talk show host claiming to be French President Nicholas Sarkozy. Governor Palin was mildly amused to learn that she had joined the ranks of heads of state, including President Sarkozy, and other celebrities in being targeted by these pranksters. C’est la vie.”

Here’s the statement from Sen. Biden’s spokesperson as reported by MSNBC (See minute 6:57):

“Sounds like the same people who didn’t vet Sarah Palin, didn’t vet her calls.”

All spokespeople, whether in politics or sports or business will have to defend a boss who makes a mistake from time to time. What the Palin spokesperson did so deftly is to use humor to diffuse the situation and mitigate criticism to the Gov. What the Biden spokesperson did was reinforce the doubts that some voters have about her candidacy.

My quick read of the news stories tonight is that the Palin press response is working. Nearly all the stories give the Governor credit for her sense of humor, although her staff get a good bit of deserved criticism for their mistake. Interestingly, I can’t find the Biden statement anywhere else. My hunch is that the Obama-Biden campaign realized after speaking to MSNBC that saying nothing was probably a better idea.

C’est la vie, indeed.

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2 responses to “The PR Lessons of the Palin Prank Call

  1. EPIC FAIL!
    Shameful.

    She is laughing and giggling with him and saying “We Love you”! Who conducts business like this? As usual the outrage will come from the American people via internet, not from traditional news sources.

    She spews her talking points with a potential foreign leader. .
    She just says yes to everything without asking for clarification.
    I am assuming these same campaign aids will follow McPalin into the White House, working in his Administration.

    We could be stuck with these idiots for the next 4 years.

    “C’est la vie”. I don’t think so. Not, again.

  2. The point of my post was not to critique how Gov. Palin handled herself, but to examine how her spokesperson and Sen. Biden’s spokesperson reacted to the situation.

    If you work in PR at some point you have to provide comment on something your company or your client has done which is embarrassing.

    Clearly, this is embarrassing for the Governor and her campaign and I’m sure this is not what they want to be discussing the final weekend of the campaign. That said, I’m not sure what else the Palin spokesperson could have said to minimize things.

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