What can we learn about damage control from an oligarchic government? Great question. A guiding light in the field of damage control PR can be found in the current Bulgarian government who, for the past six weeks has ardently held fast against the reasonable demands of its people.
Maybe, just maybe, behind this impressive level of blindness to reason lay nuggets of PR genius. This level of obstinacy, not seen since Comical Ali, definitely merits a closer look. Here are 5 top damage control tips to learn from the current Bulgarian government:
1. Ignore and Deflect, Don't Deny
Repeating an allegation of corruption, injustice or scandal only gives it weight. Don't sink to the level of actually responding to claims made against you - that's just silly. The easiest way to avert attention is to attack the credibility of those who question you. If they call you thugs on the street, call them thugs on TV. Get your people to dig deep and you'll surely find something juicy to jump on. If not, make it up.
2. Divide the Public
There's more than one way to skin a cat. Some people out there might actually still like you. Find them, give them something to wave and get them out on the streets. Don't worry if there're only a few grumpy-looking pensioners - any publicity arising from this will only fuel your argument that the protesters are isolated and unsupported by the general population. Keep in mind that you may have to pay them something or at least give them a sandwich - nothing says support like a ham and cheese.
3. There are always people worse than you
You know your public better than it knows itself. While the people are busy spinning yarns about democracy over autocracy, transparency over corruption and so on - you know they don't actually care about that stuff. They care about money and safety. Pick a threat, find an enemy who embodies it and attack them mercilessly. Perhaps claim that foreign investors are sucking out too much money from the country - perfect.
4. Repeat, Repeat, Repeat
Remember that facts are irrelevant. So what if there are 30'000 protesters against you - it's your time in the spotlight, you decide how big the opposition really is. When taking part in interviews think of any number you like ... just make sure it's one you're happy to repeat over and over again with a straight face. Around 10% of the actual number is workable because it's easy to remember... just take off a '0' and you're there. And don't worry, newfangled technology, social media and people's own observations are terribly unreliable sources of information.
5. Hedge Your Bets
There's always a chance you don't make it through. The thousands on the streets might not give up as easily as you'd like. Don't fret, for the moment, you still have the home advantage of being in power. Why not use your position to turn your final days in office into the first days of a pre-election campaign. It's quite easy really. Instead of speaking in the present tense, only speak about 'the future' and the many dangers it holds. Keep your summer holidays short - you might have to start looking through the classifieds before the Autumn.
.... And, if all else fails, blame George Soros.
("Your Future Goes Here" - Photo by Justine Toms)