Fans of the ongoing Metro drama may want to check out the beleaguered agency's response to an April 15 KHOU story on allegations that Metro submitted outdated financial projections to the Federal Transit Administration. According to the text preceding the video, the story was "distorted and plain wrong...Here's the truth." What follows is a light-rail-wreck of public relations. We thought we'd write an open letter to the star of the video, Metro spokesman George Smalley, with a few suggestions on why it, for lack of better terminology, sucks.
Dear Mr. Smalley,
The first problem with the video is actually the first sentence: "I'm George Smalley, vice president of communication and marketing for Metro." The problem here is not inaccuracy, but a seeming lack of contrition. You appear to be uttering those words with a distinct lack of irony and reflection, as if Metro were not currently the most criticized bureaucracy in a city full of criticized bureaucracies. Right now, the Sheriff's Office is most assuredly thankful that people are no longer paying attention to sub-human jail conditions, since the Metro scandal has achieved such mind-fuck proportions. We were expecting a slight hitch in your voice, perhaps something to indicate a lump in your throat -- any gesture to convey the idea that you're fully aware that, right now, Metro lacks credibility and popularity with not only the public, but with your own employees. Please realize that, in early 2010, saying you're the vice president of communication and marketing for Metro is like saying "Hello there, I''m the dude in charge of credit default swaps at Goldman Sachs."
But more importantly, according to KHOU, "Metro did not respond to [our] requests to interview Metro CEO Frank Wilson on-camera for this story." Instead, according to the station, Metro submitted a written statement. This tactic is a double-edged sword, as you may have learned in Public Relations School. On the one hand, you get to not actually answer any questions. On the other hand, your agency risks coming across as weasely. This rodentia is only exacerbated when you go on to make a video further slamming the news organization you didn't bother talking to in the first place. Is this the image that Metro really wants to portray at this juncture?
Furthermore, any hypothetically valid points you intended to raise in the video are only diluted by the fact that your CEO refused to answer KHOU's questions. Of course, we can understand the reticence to allow Frank Wilson to appear. After all, he is the man who recently enjoyed a taxpayer-funded vacation in Spain, and perhaps you were concerned that his televised visage may spark rioting.
Sometimes less is more. Perhaps it would have been best to just stick with the statement you provided KHOU. What the video lacks in production value it more than makes up for in self-righteousness, and, quite simply, Metro just doesn't have enough of that in its account right now.
Do with these suggestions what you may. We know you've got a lot on your plate right now. Just please let us know if a sequel is in the works.
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