Friday Drop: Fishing for News

Bad week for: Sarah Palin. Failure as John McCain's 2008 running mate has not dented Sarah Palin's confidence.

Sarah Palin: Bad week
Sarah Palin: Bad week

The so-called 'Caribou Barbie' divides opinion in the US. This week saw Alaska's favourite Hockey mom announce that she is to quit as Governor of the state. Reading between the lines, commentators on the American left and right predicted that this means she can be clear for a tip at the White House in 2012, quipping,"we are not retreating, we are advancing in another direction". The timing of the announcement (on American Independence Day weekend, when many media would have been going on holiday) left her open to criticism of burying bad news.

The move has left many questions over her future with critics lamenting Palin's apparent dereliction of duty. Following the announcement, she decided to invite a handful of journalists to Alaska and undertake interviews whilst fishing for salmon. Wearing waders. This rather idiosyncratic style and potentially rash decision to quit could well spell the end for Palin in the long term. Despite the obvious interest in her by the US media, political naievity and clumsy PR may signal the end. The bulldog in lipstick is well and truly back on the leash.


The timing of announcements can leave you open to criticism

Using avant garde media opportunities can serve to turn media opinion against you

Suspicions will be aroused in your motives if you give non-specific, cryptic quotes

Good week for: Chinese Government spokesman Liu Weimin

Things have been turning ugly in Western China as Han Chinese and ethnic Uigurs have been involved in civil unrest, with over 150 people killed in an apparent crackdown by police. President Hu Jintao had to miss the G8 summit to put out his domestic fires. Democratic concerns aside, things are a-changing in the People's Republic. Since last year's earthquake - a disaster generally accepted to have been well handled - China is increasingly coming to terms with the modern, international media. Unlike Iran, reporters were not banned from the streets of Urumqi and filed reports apparently unhindered, quite a step change from the dark days of Tiananmen Square..

Unthinkable even ten years ago, this spirit of openness was encapsulated by the London-based Chinese Embassy spokesperson, a Mr Weimin. He gave a master-class in staying calm under pressure on Newsnight and Channel 4 News, defusing difficult questions with answers that involved personal experiences of the region, making him far more believable. Weimin even went as far admitting that Chinese policy in this area may need re-examining. By bringing a more tactful, well-argued message to Western audiences President Jintao's employee has cast his master through frosted glass.


As a spokesperson, beginning an interview with immediate expressions of regret regardless of the question can help to diffuse the situation

Peppering your answers with personal experiences relating to the topic make you sound more credible

Good media training is essential

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PRWeek and Waggener Edstrom will host an event on 9 September for in-house communicators, discussing the lessons derived from the Friday Drop stories. For your free place, email  with your name, organisation, and position.

Caroline Randle, Waggener Edstrom recommends

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