Perdido 03

Perdido 03

Monday, March 17, 2014

Advice For De Blasio To Recover From His Early Missteps

I've talked about how de Blasio needs to start getting savvier in his handling of the press and these phony "scandals" that have popped up like "forkgate" (when he ate a slice of pizza with a fork and some in the the press, barely out of middle school, mocked him for days over it) and the UES snow plow scandal that was ginned up by the Murdoch journalists at the Post and WSJ.

Crain's has some advice for the mayor on how to turn things around:

With image repair in order, Crain's asked public-relations pooh-bahs what the mayor might do. Among the suggestions: centralize his communications operation.

Mr. de Blasio has a press secretary, Phil Walzak, and other media handlers, but no single person in charge of communications. Senior advisers Rebecca Kirszner Katz and Peter Ragone come the closest, but the chain of command is unclear.

"I think he needs a communications director," said James Vlasto, a PR veteran who was press secretary to Gov. Hugh Carey. That responsibility "can't be spread out among four or five people."

One-on-ones with local journalists, rather than hyped appearances on national programs like Morning Joe and The Daily Show, should be part of Mr. de Blasio's playbook, Mr. Vlasto suggested.

A better understanding of New York City's breathless media, and stronger relationships with individual reporters, would also improve Mr. de Blasio's image, said one former City Hall staffer. "Maybe I'm wrong, but I feel like [the administration isn't] actually picking up the phone and engaging," the staffer said.

Punctuality can help, said Davidson Goldin, founder of Goldin Solutions. "Be on time," he said. "Reporters have bosses breathing down their necks to file."

Mr. de Blasio can still score on pre-K, Mr. Goldin said. "Win gracefully," he said. "Expanded pre-K is a big victory regardless of the silly tax, so acknowledge some pleasure about how New Yorkers have embraced this key priority."

Ken Sunshine—the former chief of staff to David Dinkins whose clients include Leonardo DiCaprio, Barbra Streisand and Ben Affleck—said the mayor would benefit from taking the long view on his PR. The same poll that showed his job approval slumping also showed that a majority of New Yorkers personally like him and his family, he said.

"One might think those numbers would have tumbled, the way he's supposedly gotten beaten up," said Mr. Sunshine. "Not true."

Mr. Sunshine, who calls Mr. de Blasio a personal friend, said the mayor's approval ratings will improve as soon as the weather, and New Yorkers, warm up.

In short, schmooze the press for better coverage and get more organized in the press shop - that's the Crain's advice.

One problem I have with that advice, good as it is, is that I don't think it turns around the press coverage totally.

Murdoch and Zuckerman don't like some of the policies he is pushing and no amount of schmoozing is going to change the negative coverage he gets from news outlets owned by either of those two plutocrats.

That's the reality, which still doesn't mean that de Blasio doesn't have to get better at anticipating firestorms like the Eva Moskowitz thing and figuring out how to handle that before it happens.


  1. You forgot to add the NYTimes to your list. But I do think he needs a good strategist, the likes of Howard Wolfson who despite his relationship with Bloomberg, knew his stuff.

    1. The Times has it in for some BdB policies, yes, but the coverage is much less shrill and personal than the Post and News, IMO. Doesn't mean they're not out to get him, of course. Just they're more genteel about it.

  2. Also, don't show up to a knife fight (which is what the charter school struggle is) with a petition.

    1. Indeed. In a fight with Sheriff Andy and Eva, I'd show up with some garlic, a stake and other anti-vampire accoutrements.

  3. TeachmyclassMrMayor(andyoutooMrMulgrew)March 17, 2014 at 6:11 PM

    Funny, I have been saying for years that the UFT are idiots when it comes to media and PR. Of course it is not the only thing they are idiots about.

    1. I tend to have a darker view - they're "PR" is as bad as they want it to be because they have another agenda that has nothing to do with protecting the members.

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