Friday, February 26, 2010

Sarah Palin: going rogue again?

On his CNN Politics blog this week, Peter Hamby reported that Sarah Palin has decided not to immediately replace her media spokesperson, Meg Stapleton, who has resigned effective the end of this month to spend more time with her family.

As a professional communicator who left a challenging (OK, not quite that challenging!) corporate position so as to be able to spend more time with my own young daughter, I completely understand – and admire – Stapleton’s move.

What I don’t understand is the second part of this story: that Palin has decided not to immediately replace her media spokesperson, since, in the words of a reported “source close to the Palin family” mentioned in Hamby’s post, “the family, which takes pride in their Alaskan identity, are comfortable speaking in their own voice.”

Bad move.

The, let’s call it, “difficult” relationship between Sarah Palin and the mainstream media is no secret. She clearly feels the media are biased against her, and the media clearly enjoy exploiting every contradiction and foible she exposes.

But can she just decide to “go rogue” and refuse to play ball?

Glynnis MacNicol weighs in on

"Crafty or crazy? Palin is, obviously, one of the most talked-about women/politicians on the planet, and a lot of that talk is not nice. I suspect “responding in her own voice” actually means one of two things. Palin has decided that answering questions from actual reporters is very last decade and is either going to let a combination of her Fox analyst appearances and the take-no-prisoners Fox News PR team speak for her (one can dream). Or! She has concluded, and not without good reason, that her one-way Facebook mouthpiece is all the public access she requires. It’s worked so far. Why bother with the fourth estate at all when all you need is a catchy Facebook note to derail an entire health care bill."

Well, I think that might be an option if you only ever need to reach people who are already listening to you. Palin’s following on Fox News and Facebook is inarguably considerable – but if her agenda includes any kind of debate at the national level, she’ll soon find that you can’t make much progress increasing the size of your following when you only ever talk to the people already listening to you.

Reality check interlude: we have to remember that Palin’s camp hasn’t said she doesn’t intend to talk to the media at all – just that she’s not “immediately” replacing the spokesperson who would facilitate making that happen.

If Palin does indeed want to persuade Americans to see the world as she sees it, and to support her as she works to make changes at the highest levels of the government, she will need to gain some support from people who don’t support her now. Those people may not follow Fox News, and are unlikely following her on Facebook, unless they do for entertainment value.

Social media has indeed been the catalyst for an evolution in public relations, as it allows organizations (and political figures) to talk directly to their audiences better than ever before. But the beauty and the challenge of social media is that it requires you to have access to your audiences before you can talk to them. They have to self-identify as being interested in hearing from you, to a degree at least, or their friends have to.

If you want to reach people who don’t already agree with you, or who aren’t aware of you, you need to go where they are to reach them.

And, like it or not, Ms. Palin, many of them are consuming mainstream media.


  1. Maybe this is the first of many "scratch your head" decisions being made on Sarah's behalf by BSMP LLC. Sarah always takes the opportunity (if she reminds herself by pen & palm) to speak to family values. Maybe lately she's just speaking to family.

    For the record, the day of Sarah's first "tweet", we all lost.