Hilary Rosen: Communicator Overboard

Hilary Rosen, a managing director for strategic communications firm SKDKnickerbocker, pundit for CNN and, according to The Nation, a Democratic lobbyist, got a little too enthusiastic in her election year trash talk when she said on CNN on April 11, “Guess what—[Mitt Romney’s] wife has actually never worked a day in her life.”

We can all agree that this was a dumb thing to say. The useful question for communicators to ask is: How did a professional communicator arrive at that point where that particular question was asked?

It’s fairly obvious that both the Democratic and Republican party hand out talking points to their spokespeople, who include members of Congress, members of the professional media, paid consultants and who knows who else. Was Rosen’s comment a failed talking point or did she just go overboard in her effort to advance a political point of view?

My guess is she went overboard in making the point that Ann Romney is not an expert on working (as in “job holding”) women’s economic issues and thoughtlessly lapsed into a common misconception that women who don’t have salaried jobs and stay home to raise children don’t really work.

She went overboard on behalf of a political party and said something dumb. We see this on the Republican side, too. By laying it on too thick, she became the story and lost credibility as a spokesperson.

The lessons here: As an advocate or spokesperson, don’t oversell, don’t pander, don’t exaggerate. Leave that to the candidates (or CEOs) themselves.

—Steve Goldstein

Follow Steve Goldstein: @SGoldsteinAI