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The PMO's trifecta of blunders in Iraq is a communications fiasco

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When a company or organization does something it shouldn’t, and its reputation has taken a hit, it’s usually because of a lapse in judgment. In these cases a sincere apology and a genuine effort to put things right is enough to address the issue.

The bigger mistake is when the guilty party refuses to admit it did anything wrong, offers a half-assed apology, or worst of all, tries to avoid responsibility by lying.

Its not unusual to see a company or organization commit one of these sins, sometimes two, but when it is three, it can almost always be traced back to terrible management, incompetence, or arrogance. And usually coupled with inexperience.

So it is surprising that none other than the Prime Minister’s office committed the latest trifecta.


First, during the Prime Minister Harper’s visit to Iraq last week, the PMO ignored a Department of National Defense directive not to publicly show the faces of Special Forces personnel by doing just that in videos prepared for purely partisan purposes.

If it was an honest mistake, it should have been immediately admitted with an appropriate, unqualified apology. It still would have been bad, especially given that the PMO was told about this security protocol in two separate briefings before the trip. But the way the Prime Minister’s Office handled it only made it worse, much worse.

There is a lesson here in responsible, ethical communications. Consider how it played out, and see if you don’t agree that at every turn the PMO dug the hole deeper.


When criticism of showing the faces of Canadian soldiers on anti-ISIL missions was made, the PMO first brushed it off, saying they hadn’t violated any security rules.

When pushed further, the PMO said the Department of National Defense cleared the videos for use.

The DND was quick to say absolutely no way would they ever allow such a thing as it puts the soldiers in additional and unnecessary danger.

That was lie Number 1.

When they were cornered on that, they continued to try to minimize the breach, saying there were concerns over “a few specific images” and so they took the video down from the Prime Minister’s website so the protocols could be reviewed. and after a second review it was decided the videos should never have been posted.

That was lie Number 2.

There was never any second review. The protocols are crystal clear. The faces of Special Forces personnel cannot be shown. No exceptions.


In short, the PMO blew it big time by posting the videos, and then made matters worse first by denying they did anything wrong, then by their inability to be honest in dealing with it, and then falling short with their weasel-like apology.

There’s a number of effective communications rules that were ignored here, but even more basic, it goes back to what our mothers taught us, or at least tried to - when you mess up, fess up, and above all, be honest.

Isn’t it funny how doing the right thing is also the effective communications thing? The PMO has yet to learn this.  Or maybe it just did. 

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