VA Secretary Robert McDonald put both his corporate feet in his mouth this week when he suggested that veterans should not complain about the long wait time for an appointment to see a doctor at the VA. After all, said McDonald, people waiting in line at Disneyland never complain. It’s not about the wait, he said. It’s about the satisfaction of the experience once you get there.
Mr. McDonald made the remark while fielding questions from reporters at a Christian Science Monitor breakfast with reporters. it’s hard to believe that anyone talking to the media would not think long and hard about what they say.
This has to be one of the most insensitive organizational faux pas yet. And it created a storm of negative comments in the mainstream media and online. McDonald’s refusal to apologize just fulled the fire.
The backlash from angry congressmen, senators, veterans and concerned citizens was reported in the media and spread rapidly across social media channels as the coverage was shared and reposted. Several GOP officials have called for McDonald to resign.
The VA already has it’s PR challenges, but this recent gaffe has pushed it to the edge.
- Make sure every executive who speaks publicly in any forum has had media training.
- Create approved messaging and sound bites for executives who speak for the organization.
- Run “ambush” scenarios where execs are put under fire and have to respond quickly off-the-cuff.
- We live in a 24/7 media world and everyone has a platform and a voice.Your mistakes will go viral.
- If you do make a mistake, don’t duck the issue. Own it right away and apologize.
- “I misspoke”is a lame excuse and does not constitute an apology.