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Checking Their Guns (And Their Brains) At The Door: The Secret Services No Longer Secret Shenanigans

Apr 24, 2012

Talk about public relations disasters in degrees. When Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney criticizes a Pittsburgh cookie it’s one thing.  But when half a dozen secret service agents and 11 military personnel lose their jobs after seeking the “secret services” of women who could have gone by the street name “Cookie” it’s an entirely different matter and enough to make me lose my dessert.

In short: this is not good at all.

If anything, the unfolding Secret Service and military personnel prostitute scandal is a glaring example that sometimes no matter how much spin is added to the curve ball of professional news speak and public relations, you can still strike out. The exploits of these men are indefensible which has left the political punditsphere returning to humor. One of my favorites comes from Steven Cody, the Managing Partner and Co-Founder of Peppercorn, a public relations firm. His idea, expressed in his most recent post: “Let’s re-brand it the not-so Secret Service.”

And while crass humor may serve as a temporary public antidote for the serious standards and security breach that was uncovered in Colombia, it will do nothing in the longer term court of public opinion.

To a large extent, Lawrence Berger, the lawyer for two Secret Service supervisors who lost their jobs was right. The actions of these individuals did not compromise the security of the President. But if that’s the best defense that can be mustered, I think one would be hard pressed to call that a stunning PR reversal.

The President may not have been harmed physically, but his image certainly was, giving political red meat to the likes of Sarah Palin who commented on Fox news recently, “It’s like, who’s minding the store around here?”

The Secret Service, founded in 1865, and charged with presidential protection since 1901, has a long and largely successful history. While there’s no denying this public relations disaster is a big one, it’s also likely that an agency that presumably takes its mission and duty so seriously will work exceedingly hard at doing their jobs that much better so that time really will smooth out this unfortunate – kink. (Yes, pun intended)

“Waiting it out” is usually a PR professional’s least favorite advice to a client. But in this case it may be the only way the embattled agency can regain its stripes. “I’m sorrys” have been made. Jobs have been lost.

It’s quite possible the less they say going forward might be the most prudent course of action.  Until, of course, one of them releases a kiss and tell all tome, which will be only a matter of time.

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