Saturday, April 07, 2012

Petrino Was Set-Up

Now that I have your attention, on Tuesday, Bobby Petrino found himself surrounded and outmanned at this press conference.

While it is impossible to know for sure, it appears that Petrino still believed his version of events - that his passenger on the motorcycle was still a secret kept by himself, the good Samaritan couple who picked him up and likely his Arkansas State Police personal detail officer.

What is now obvious is the media - and dozens of other people - knew the truth. Another person who came upon the wreck called 911 to help out.

So when one TV station went out of its way to ask after the press conference if he was alone, and Petrino bit and replied "yeah" before walking off.

There is your smoking gun. Your 181/2 minute gap.

Aside from another reminder of the Watergate Rule (it's never about the crime, it's about the coverup) let's review some crisis management 101 and social media realities.

SM Reality #1: You are outnumbered.
Since the dawn of the networked media age, anyone in the arena is surrounded with individuals who at a moment's notice can become a reporter and at least a recorder of events. This is s Stazi dream come true. The hive will inform on you. Which leads to . . .

Management 101: If more than two people know, you no longer have a secret.
Let's see. At least three cars stopped at the accident. In the reports, the couple that drove Petrino away said another car had stopped. The 911 caller said the other car drove away, implying there may have been a third car - his - at the time. We know from the media as they got their first pictures of the wreck that another person drove up and snapped pictures. Maybe that's a containable group, but once the call is made, dispatch knows, everyone in Madison County law enforcement knows, that will be shared with Washington County and now we have a rumor R-naught of something like 16.

Hard Truth: No Good Deed Goes Unpunished.
Been here and done that - the good Samaritans got a visit from "an officer" after the event sent by Petrino to thank them. And remind them of anything? The 911 caller will become the anti-Christ to the pro-Bobby faction of rabid Hog fans if this goes bad for their sainted BMFP. The state police captain who is trying to do his job to help Petrino is in for likely trouble as well. Really makes you want to stick your neck out, hmm?

PIO Rule #1: Trust in God, Verify Everyone Else.
That piece of wisdom was given to me by a former Arkansas State Trooper who was teaching the state-level FEMA Public Information Officer course. I heard a similar version at the National Fire Academy Advanced PIO and just a few weeks ago from the trainer of PIOs for the Louisiana State Police. Those were words I tried to live by, but from personal experience, nothing, NOTHING will piss your boss off more than you trying to do this kind of due diligence.

Those are words you can count on. Arkansas stands at the crossroads on this crisis, but they will recover no matter what. Don't think so? Baylor had players murdering each other and NCAA violations stacking up just over a decade ago. They were left for dead not once, but twice in the Big 12 formation then reformation. Who has the most powerful athletic department in the Big 12 right now? That's a hard fact - this year they have more wins in the big three sports, a Heisman, a national title and over the past several years more Big 12 team titles than I think any other school, if not just second.

So even Penn State with the right plan for addressing the issues can regain its stature.

However, better to avoid those kind of events when you can by remembering those important rules.

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