What’s worse than closing one of the only free public beaches in your area on a celebratory weekend?
Getting out your own deck chair and rocking up for a party on that beach with your family.
Could it get any worse than that?
Well you could lie about doing so. And then, on being caught out, try to weasel out of it by arguing a linguistic technicality.
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has just scored all these own goals. It's being referred to as 'Beachgate'.
Families across America were recently together to celebrate Independence Day with food and fireworks, embracing their national holiday with gusto. Parks and beaches were prime locations for these festivities.
Now, politicians must make difficult decisions, and we’re pretty sure Governor Christie took no joy in giving the go-ahead for non-essential services – including all state parks and, crucially, the Island State Beach Park – to be shut down over a holiday weekend.
The partial shutdown was due to New Jersey failing to meet its budget deadline at the beginning of the month.
His decision was understandably unpopular, and arguably unfair, as the closing of a free beach will have a much bigger impact on those with less disposable income.
But so far, no foul.
He hammered home the point that while his family were enjoying themselves at home over the weekend, he would keep his nose to the grindstone and head in to the office, just like any other all-American who works hard for family and country (although he would be commuting by helicopter).
But where he came a cropper was when he declared that he “didn’t get any sun,” over the national holiday…
…shortly before aerial photos emerged of him and his brood having a grand old time on an otherwise empty beach.
Wearing shorts and sandals, with a fridge of cooled drinks nearby, he watched as members of his party ran into the sea.
On being found out, his spokesperson argued the ridiculous point: “He did not get any sun. He had a baseball hat on.”
Putting aside the fact the sun would be hitting the rest of him, this response is like a kid caught with his hand in the cookie jar.
When you’re caught doing something wrong, and the evidence is so definitive, wriggling and squirming and making weak excuses is not the way forward.
Governor Christie even tried saying that he had been “briefly” on the beach before “heading in to the office”.
Whether you’re a politician, a celebrity or a brand, your reputation is based on what you do, what you say, and what others say about you.
You can try to talk yourself out of a problem, but if what you do and what you say don’t go hand in hand, you’re in trouble.
Voters, fans or customers will lose trust in you, and if you repeatedly betray that trust, they’ll abandon you faster than you can say apple pie.
We’re able to advise clients on the reputational impact of their decisions before they take them, so they don’t blindly walk into problems of their own making.
If or when a mistake or misunderstanding does come about, we can develop a crisis management strategy to minimise damage – it will be bespoke to the issue.
But have no doubt, it won’t be a childish quibble about baseball hats!
We are specialists in crisis management and brand reputation. Call us now on 0800 612 9890.