If You Can’t Say Something Nice…

If You Can’t Say Something Nice…

When you’re a communications consultant, watching the Blacks’ attempt to stay afloat in muddy waters means evaluating how they are doing and what they could do better in the “double” trial they are undergoing—both the criminal trial playing out in a Chicago courtroom, and the ongoing character trial playing out in the court of public opinion.

In the latter, the Blacks seek to rehabilitate themselves in the eyes of influentials on both sides of the pond. To that end, Black is once again talking to the press, which isn’t, in my view, helping his cause. His latest blustery quote from an interview in the Guardian—“I’m on an inexorable march to victory…my strategy is working”—gets everyone’s back up and has the potential to filter down to the judge and jury, whose response may very well be, “Oh yeah?” Generally we advise clients who are clearly mired in crisis to affect modesty and to avoid speculation on outcomes. “Hoping for the best in a difficult situation where the cards seem stacked against you” is an effective courtroom-steps posture that wins sympathy and respect.

Black’s other scrum epithets are more strategic. They are variations on the theme that he is the hapless victim of a United States government assault against him and his family. Not bad, but could be made better with a bit of context. An effective diversionary PR tactic is the use of Black’s just published Nixon book—excerpts from which are being heralded above the fold in the National Post—to distract from his legal travails. This is the “I’m a serious author, not a crook” positioning, and I’d say it has legs.

But the prosecution’s clever release of papers, letters, e-mails and other documents is increasing the deficit in the character trial, if not in the courtroom. And there is little the Blacks can do to spin the impressions that emerge from recently published correspondence between Black and the Aspers on the treatment of Black’s arch-enemy Chrétien, or Black’s snotty views on the leadership of BCE.

Unless Black’s people have their own trove of material that casts him in a better light (unlikely), and they can play the same game and selectively release it, the prosecution’s tactic is another communications nightmare for Lord and Lady B.