Tony Blair has given us a great insight into his success as a politician and a public figure. If we look beyond the propriety of his advice and Mrs Brooks motive in recording it, we will see its value. Tony Blair is an astute politician. He succeeded in large part because he could manage the media message, which today is as important as the political programme. He has provided good crisis management advice that corporate leaders and politicians should take note.
The advice in its parts helps us understand how he managed the appearance as well as the reality of the situation. Like all successful politicians and public figures, Mr Blair understands that appearance can become the reality.
“1. Form an independent unit that has an outside junior counsel, Ken Macdonald, a great and good type, a serious forensic criminal barrister, internal counsel, proper fact checkers etc in it. Get them to investigate me and others and publish a Hutton style report,” she said.
He recommends expertise that will not tailor its advice to suit the interest of the client. Instead, they will do it with the focus on the law. Mrs Brooks, the client, can handle the publicity of it. In the US a similar situation can be seen in how Penn State handled or mishandled the Sandusky crisis. The Hutton style report is not to cast aspersions on the Hutton report. It sets out the style template.
“2. Publish part one of the report at same time as the police closes its inquiry and clear you and accept short comings and new solutions and process and part two when any trials are over.
Politicians understand timing is important in politics and in the media. These are important inflection points to remember. The next time you see a report leaked or published, consider this advice on timing. Has the media outlet done this on their timetable or someone else’s?
“3. Keep strong and definitely sleeping pills. Need to have clear heads and remember no rash short term solutions as they only give you long term headaches.
This advice is common sense and most people who fail overlook it. Sleep is the most important and valuable asset in a crisis. Without sleep or poor sleep, people make mistakes. People will focus on the minute when stressed and sleepless and lose sight of the larger issue. There is a reason armies attack at dawn.
“4. It will pass. Tough up.
The focus on the future is vital in a crisis. Perspective is always needed because the immediacy of the moment can lead to poor decisions.
“5. He is available for you, KRM [Rupert Murdoch] and me as an unofficial adviser but needs to be between us,” she wrote.
Understanding that there are other sources of advice is important to maintain morale and seek out different perspectives.
Instead of criticising Mr Blair, we should thank him for a lesson in crisis management from an extraordinarily successful politician.