How Mariah Kennedy-Cuomo Masked Her Dad’s Poor Communication Skills

What's a father to do when your 25-year-old daughter says you're an ineffective communicator, and you have an important message to send? And to make things more complicated, you've got a big job where communication is critical.

That was the issue New York Governor Andrew Cuomo wrestled with the other night. Cuomo told reporters during today's press briefing, My daughter says “I’m not always a good communicator…and I admit it…I’m trying to get better…I’m a work in progress. We’re all a work in progress.”

The important message the governor wanted to relay is that all New Yorkers need to wear masks when they are in public. “Ninety-nine percent of New Yorkers” are donning face masks, Cuomo said. He wants the remaining one percent to join them.

Mask-wearing is a collective action. “You wear a mask to protect my health. I wear a mask to protect your health,” he added.

For some reason, though, Cuomo has been unable to get all New Yorkers to join in. Being authentic, the governor chalked it up to his ineffective communication skills.

Rely on Mariah

Aforementioned 25-year-old daughter to the rescue. Mariah Kennedy-Cuomo, seated on the podium next to her beaming dad, came up with an idea to counteract what she believes is her dad’s inadequate communications ability. New York, Mariah told her father, should launch a contest for a 30-second ad to encourage mask wearing. Any resident can enter a video, the governor said during the briefing. The winner’s name will be displayed at the bottom of the ad and will be famous, he added.

The governor had the good sense to agree with his daughter's idea.

Mariah’s reward is that she’ll be a pro bono adviser to the Empire State on the contest.

As above, any New Yorker can enter, but not all entrants will have an equal chance of winning. “The boyfriend can enter…the boyfriend will not win…because I am still the governor,” the over-protective father joked about Mariah’s mate. Seems fair to us.

How well did the governor communicate news of the contest? Not bad, Mariah said during the briefing. The only thing she added was that more information about the contest will be online “in the next few days,” and shared the website.

[Update, May 21, 2020: Skip to 1.24 to view the 5 video finalists.]

[Update, May 27, 2020: Here's the winner.]

PR Takeaways

Apart from adopting the simple, but good, idea for the ad contest, the governor also is applying several PR best practices. First, he's breaking up the normally serious briefings with folksy family humor. It’s not a secret that homebound viewers, plus the media, appreciate a light touch, within reason, and empathy. During crises, but particularly during coronavirus, PR pros have urged empathy in internal and external communications and storytelling.

In addition, Mariah made her old man seem cool, linking him to video.

Cuomo's also being transparent, another PR hallmark. He admitted there's no chance "the boyfriend" can win the contest, didn't he?

Father (of 3) Knows Best

Incidentally, today is far from the first time Cuomo has alluded to "the boyfriend" during briefings. Last month, he offered advice to fathers during a Sunday briefing, which typically are less formal than weekday affairs.

“The answer on what you think of the boyfriend is always, 'I like the boyfriend,' because there’s only two options. Either you like the boyfriend or you don’t like the boyfriend–but you can never say you don’t like the boyfriend. I learned that lesson the hard way,” Cuomo said.

When a father says he doesn’t like the boyfriend he runs the risk of his daughter contracting Natural Defiance Syndrome (NDS). NDS, Cuomo said, is “an undocumented” psychological condition that results in daughters liking their boyfriends even more as a way to anger dad. Cuomo should know. His former wife Kerry Kennedy and he have three daughters.

Fortunately, Governor Cuomo says he likes Mariah’s boyfriend. Really, he has no choice.

This article is part of PRNEWS' daily COVID-19 coverage, click here to see the latest updates.