Well that was a short, sharp drop at the end of a rope.
In true The Apprentice style, Antoni “The Mooch” Scaramucci, was ‘fired’ a mere 10 days after taking on the position of White House Communications Director.
Several days after receiving praise for smooth talking his way through his first press briefing (in marked contrast to outgoing Communications Director Sean “Spicey” Spicer), the Mooch made a fatal PR mistake. He aired the White Houses’ internal dirty laundry to a reporter, taking aim in colourful language at arch nemesis (and WH Chief of Staff) Reince Priebus. The Mooch later complained that he wasn’t aware the conversation with New Yorker reporter Ryan Lizza was on the record. The twittersphere erupted with a barrage of biting commentary, the general gist of which can be summed up as;
A few days after Scaramucci’s profane rant he was summarily pushed out of the administration by new chief of staff John Kelly.
There are so many threads to follow with this story. The continuing chaos and disruption at the heart of the Trump presidency; the sheer morbid spectacle of watching a bunch of eccentric characters eat each other alive to get to the top. But as a communications professional it’s hard not to focus on the predictable failure of someone so unqualified and inexperienced taking on one of the hardest PR jobs in the world. Scaramucci, like so many in Trump’s administration do, has a background solely in finance and business, and limited experience in PR and communications. It takes years and years to develop the necessary skills and knowledge to do the job well and not make embarrassing, high-profile errors. The Mooch didn’t have a chance.
So, what are some of the PR/Comms lessions that Mr Scaramucci may do well to learn before he applies for his next position?
Don’t let yourself become the story
In a week when the White House desperately needed to focus on some success stories, the story ended up being Scaramucci calling a fellow co-worker “a f—ing paranoid schizophrenic”. This is no the way to control the message.
Don’t be crazier than your crazy boss
We’re all aware that Donald Trump’s gonzo communications style is what got him elected, but that sort of thing is lightening in a bottle. There’s not enough room for more than one volatile, unpredictable actor in this play. And Mooch, even the best performer needs good content.
Learn what ‘off the record’ means, and when to use it
If a journalist asks you a question, and you want it to be off the record, always start the conversation with “this is off the record”. Coming out later on Twitter to bitterly complain about your unfair treatment at the hands of the Lügenpresse is, well let’s just say the optics aren’t great on that one. And, if you want it to be off the record, just don’t say it!
Do all you can to convey a trustworthy reputation
If you’re asked about your relationship to the President, don’t answer with the line “I can tell you two fish that don’t stink, that’s me and the president”. Try to avoid turning the workplace into the sequel to the Godfather where loyalties are tested in a life and death grudge match. This includes firing Republican National Committee staffers with comments like “I know you’ve been serving two masters in this place”. Forget PR, you should be writing movie scripts.
Other Do’s and Don’ts
Don’t publicly and privately brag about breaking company rules. Don’t threaten fellow employees (full stop). Don’t swagger into meetings you aren’t invited to, just to throw your weight around.
And probably, most importantly of all, don’t overestimate your autonomy and leeway on the job due to the close personal relationship you feel you have with the boss.