As ‘superstorm’ Sandy edged its way towards the East coast of the United States politics was set aside with President Obama and his challenger Mitt Romney suspending their campaigns. That hasn’t meant that politicians have disappeared from our TV screens. Since then – in the hours preceding the storm making landfall and since dawn broke to reveal the devastation - President Obama, Mayor Bloomberg of New York and Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey have all held press briefings to varying degrees of success.
President Obama - perhaps conscious that Sandy could swing the election his way if dealt with well but minded that failure from the Federal government could do the opposite – held a low key media briefing where the President failed to communicate any urgency or the seriousness of the situation. Indeed, most of comments seemed to be designed to deflect attention away from the preparations being made by the Federal government to those of the State administrations. If this was expectation management it seemed deeply cynical to me. At the same time Obama was hesitant – almost rambling in his words - and somewhat unfocussed on the task at hand.
By contrast the standout performance so far has come from Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Prior to the storm hitting he gave clear, direct advice delivered in plain and simple language as to what his emergency teams were doing and what the public could do to keep out of harm’s way. He updated the media frequently to ensure that no accusations of lack of action could be levelled at him but never fell into the trap of speculating about subjects he knew nothing about. He has avoided cliché and jargon while communicating great empathy with New Yorkers in a way President Obama failed to do. For this I make Mayor Michael Bloomberg my Communicator of the Week.