Photos that emerged this week of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau sporting a “black face” costume is an interesting lesson in crisis communications.
On one hand, when this story broke, Trudeau’s first apology was textbook. Every crisis communications manual would recommend the words, appearance and approach that he used in that apology. Being a former actor, Trudeau delivered it perfectly.
However, is an apology enough and can Trudeau recover from this and win the upcoming election?
First of all, a day is a long time in an election campaign. We have one month to go before Canadians head to the polls – anything can happen between now and then. I won’t predict that Trudeau won’t win the next election.
What is troublesome is that this apology (and now another apology after the emergence of a third “blackface” incident) is just one more thing in a series of incidents that voters have to consider.
Canadians will forgive one mistake that was followed with a heartfelt apology.
But a series of mistakes – no apology to Jody Wilson-Raybould, ethics violations and, especially relevant here in the West, being tone-deaf on trade issues and their effect on farmers and pipeline issues and their effect on families across Saskatchewan and Alberta – is much harder to recover from than one isolated mistake.
Also damaging to the Prime Minister is the high standard he has held his opponents to and his failure to now hold himself to the same high standard. This will certainly fuel cynicism among voters.
One mistake can be forgiven. But after a series of mistakes and a heartfelt apology, no matter how many times it is delivered, may not be enough for Trudeau.
National broadcaster CTV invited our President and CEO Mary-Lynn Charlton on to the CTV News Channel today (Friday Sept 20) to add speak to the story from a reputation and crisis management perspective. Mary-Lynn will return to the national CTV News Channel tomorrow 11am CST (1pm EDT).
Clip courtesy of CTV News Channel