It’s obvious what a public relations debacle Rob Ford’s situation is, and plenty has already been written on it. As one with an interest in PR, there’s a particular aspect I find very interesting.
It’s amazing to me that the situation taken this long to detonate. I remember reading in Gawker six months ago about this video of the Toronto mayor smoking crack. At that point it was just a bizarre, yet well-chronicled tale:
Rob Ford, Toronto’s conservative mayor, is a wild lunatic given to making bizarre racist pronouncements and randomly slapping refrigerator magnets on cars. One reason for this is that he smokes crack cocaine. I know this because I watched him do it, on a videotape. He was f-ing hiiiiigh. It’s for sale if you’ve got six figures. –Gawker, May ’13
The only thing that came of it other than an interesting story and an IndieGoGo campaign at the time was suspicion toward the mayor that only added more doubt to a shady tale. If the mayor and his team were at all serious about salvaging their professional futures, coming clean immediately back then and making reparations in some meaningful way would have been the best course of action and avoided a Saturday Night Live parody. But here we are. It will no doubt be interesting to see how this plays out as a great example of a PR “don’t” for decades to come.
As a side note, I have a Canadian colleague who notes that this whole thing will go away once the world sees the actual video, stating that as long as Ford was polite when smoking crack (“May I see that pipe, please? Thank you, kind sir.”), no big deal. If he was rude — well, then it’s all over.