Toronto’s New Mayor Needs Media Training

In three weeks, a Canadian politician named Rob Ford will be sworn in as Toronto’s new mayor.

Mr. Ford is no stranger to controversy. He’s uttered ethnic slurs, been arrested for drunk driving, and was even ejected from a sports arena for instigating a shouting match.

He agreed to an interview recently with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s long-running radio program, As It Happens, heard throughout Canada and the United States. Ford’s communications director scheduled the interview while the mayor-elect was coaching a football game. Let’s just say he didn’t do well. (2020 update: Video is no longer unavailable.)

Here are three reasons Mr. Ford failed so spectacularly:

1. He Was Unfocused: Ford interrupted the interview numerous times and admitted he was “being distracted.” That he agreed to conduct an internationally-broadcast interview from an active football field was a staggeringly bad idea.

Let’s look at this in context. Toronto’s baseball stadium seats 49,539 people. Mr. Ford’s radio interview was surely heard by at least that many people. If given the opportunity to address a sold-out crowd at the stadium for three minutes, Ford likely would have given it his full attention. But when given the chance to address the same audience over the airwaves, he didn’t.

2. He Was Rude: When asked about what specific expenses he planned to cut, Mr. Ford said: “I just told you, I’m going to get rid of the $60 car registration tax and land transfer tax, so maybe I’m not making myself clear.” Actually, it was the first time in the interview he had said that, so he didn’t “just tell her” that. And even if he had, he should have remained polite and simply repeated his message.

3. He Lost His Message:  Yes, Mr. Ford repeated his message of fiscal restraint numerous times. But the radio audience was surely distracted by his odd behavior. And the tens of thousands of people who watched this YouTube video wanted to hear his bizarre interview, not his message.

As a result, Mr. Ford blew an opportunity to advance his ideas. Worse, it’s tough to imagine that this interview inspired great confidence in investors around the world considering business in Toronto.

I’d love to continue this article. But in the words of Mr. Ford, “I gotta let you go here. I can’t talk to you right now, really I’m on a very tight schedule, so I hate to be rude but I gotta let you go.”


Hat tip: Jeff Domansky, The PR Coach