OPtics matteR

      4 Comments on OPtics matteR

Optics. It’s the current PR buzzword for “how it looks.” This week, when the president shared warm smiles and handshakes with world leaders, it was good optics. When the vice president, while visiting NASA, placed his hand on equipment clearly marked “Do Not Touch,” that was bad optics.

But New Jersey Governor Chris Christie gets the Bad Optics of the Week award. As he and the state legislature failed to agree on a budget, more than 50 state parks, historic sites and recreational areas had to close as vacationers from New Jersey and beyond were planning their extended Fourth of July holiday weekend.

Yet, on July 2, there was Christie and his family enjoying an empty state-owned beach. The governor was dressed in shorts, flip-flops and a t-shirt, plopped in a beach chair and staring up at the helicopter from which pictures were taken by a New Jersey Star-Ledger photographer. Photos of Chris Christie with the beach all to himself wound up all over social and traditional media. Bad optics.

Steve Sack – Star Tribune

Christie’s family had spent part of the day on Island Beach State Park, where there’s a state-owned governor’s residence, while thousands of his constituents were shut out. “On Saturday, the governor had defended using a state park that is closed to the rest of the state’s residents due to the budget impasse,” reported NPR. “Christie told reporters that his family doesn’t use any state services while there, and emphasized that his residence is separate from the park. With his trademark brusqueness, Christie told state residents how they could enjoy the beach. ‘Run for governor, and you can have a residence there,’ he said.”

It’s an understatement to say that New Jerseyans were displeased.

I’ve often referred to a favorite publication of mine about public relations mistakes, Steve Adubato’s 2009 book, What Were They Thinking? Crisis Communication: The Good, the Bad, and the Totally Clueless. Professional communicators are constantly amazed at how important people continue to make such obvious, avoidable PR gaffes. Maybe Chris Christie didn’t think there’d be photographers around. Or maybe he just doesn’t care about optics. Your thoughts?


4 thoughts on “OPtics matteR

  1. Daniela gagliano

    photographs are extremely impressionable, especially when you’re a politician in the spotlight. When an audience reacts negatively to a situation, as a communicator it’s best to be careful with your response. A snide response can leave the public in even more dismay than the original photograph. Optics matter, words matter.

  2. Kara Schilder

    Chris Christie is a politician who doesn’t really care about the popular opinion. He’s proven throughout his past term that he isn’t necessarily the brightest or most sensical of people and last week, he easily proved that statement correct.
    I’m not sure if he thought he would be seen or not, but in a world run by fast news, it’s unrealistic to think that any public figure can fly under the radar.
    By using the state beaches, Chris Christie soiled whatever leadership image he was hanging by because he has now shown the public that he feels he is superior and while they can’t use the beach, he still can. The more he uses his title and ignores the needs of his state, it becomes more of a relief to New Jerseyans and surrounding states that his term is coming to a close.

  3. John Grillea

    Governor Christie is someone who doesn’t care about how he looks in the public eye. This is a slap in the face to the public, which basically says that they can’t do something, but he can. He’s someone who doesn’t care about good/bad PR. Governor Christie knew he would be seen. With the power of social media and technology, things go viral in seconds. In public relations, we know reputation is key. Some individuals don’t realize this or they just don’t care.

  4. Aliyah

    As I was working on the timeline project, I reflected a lot on the changes in public perception and reception in the advent of different media technologies. It’s interesting to think how before the use of photography and the television in news, something like Gov. Christie’s beach visit would have been simply spoken and written about. If this same event had occurred in the 1800s, I wonder if people would have been as upset. Did words have the same impact on the public or has visual imagery worked to heighten people’s responses to events in the news?

    Also, as social media becomes the news source for many people, it’s unfortunate that some celebrities neglect to acknowledge the importance of perception and optics. Maybe this is in attempt to hold on to what little privacy they have. Either way, in the age when a picture is worth a thousand words, privacy and perception have a negative correlation, and not respecting this only hurts one’s reputation.


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