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PR expert: "No turning point in sight" in Gov. Snyder's handling of Flint water crisis

Gov. Snyder signs a bill that secures $28 million in aid to Flint on January 29, 2016 in Grand Rapids.
Gov. Snyder's office
Gov. Snyder signs a bill that secures $28 million in aid to Flint on January 29, 2016 in Grand Rapids.

In the coming months, there will continue to be much debate and discussion over the Flint water crisis. Who made the wrong decisions, and who knew what, when?

What about a discussion about the way Gov. Rick Snyder’s team, and the governor himself, have handled what has been a public relations nightmare?

Matt Friedman, the co-founder of Tanner Friedman Strategic Communications, joined Stateside to give some expert analysis and critique on the public relations side of the water crisis, starting with a missed opportunity by Gov. Snyder and his team.

“The State of the State could have been a real turning point in the entire dialog about how this is being handled,” said Friedman. “We’re in a situation now where it still feels like we’re closer to the beginning of this story then we are to the end, and there’s no turning point in sight, and that’s a bad place to be when you work in PR.”

Some view the governor’s hiring of a crisis management firm as being controversial, but Friedman said it was “absolutely necessary.” He said a traditional communication staff, often times, isn’t equipped or experienced enough to handle a crisis of this magnitude.

“Crisis is a different mode altogether,” said Friedman. “The fundamentals are the same, but the execution is very different and you have to understand that the audience is in tune in a different way and communicating to that audience and meeting the audience’s expectations is hard. And if you haven’t done it before, you don’t necessarily know how to do it naturally. It’s only through experience.”

Listen to the full interview to hear more analysis of the Snyder administration’s handling of the Flint water crisis aftermath and to hear Friedman’s top three recommendations he would give to the governor and his team.

Josh Hakala, a lifelong Michigander (East Lansing & Edwardsburg), comes to Michigan Radio after nearly two decades of working in a variety of fields within broadcasting and digital media.
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