August 21, 2009

To Borrow Tom Ridge’s Words, “For that?”

Posted in Political Punditry at 10:17 am by R

Let me start off by saying that I’ve known Tom Ridge since I was a little girl. He and my mother worked together on the Erie Historical Society and did a number of projects together surrounding Veteran’s Affairs. Long story short…I’m a little biased.

That being said….

A press release from Mr. Ridge’s publisher  on his new book “The Test of Our Times: America Under Siege … and How We Can Be Safe Again” notes that:

Ridge says he objected to raising the security level despite the urgings of former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and then-Attorney General John Ashcroft…

An MSNBC article discusses the content of the book, addressing the political motivations for raising or not raising the Terror Level. Naturally, Mr. Ridge’s publicist indicates that his client is unavailable to give interviews until his book is release September 1.

Ok, here’s my issue: Why would you release text from the book as part of pre-promotion that has people coming out of the wood-works to contest the validity, honesty and credibility of the author!?

Case in point: Michelle Malkin is attributing this tactic to Ridge himself calling him a “weasel” for this type of pre-promo…and the commentary left under her post on the topic is less than glowing.

Some people believe that any press is good press. I’m not in that camp.

It is my position that as a publicist — or even a publisher — your job is to present your client in a positive light. I get it, controversy sells books. But there must be more in this book!

How can we be safe again? The title leads me to believe that Mr. Ridge has some solutions. Why not offer a few of those as part of pre-promotion? Be part of the solution, not party to beating a dead horse.

I worry that this book will be cast off as just-another-former-administration-expose because of this type of launch.

This book — from what the title implies — is an examination of the utterly changed world we live in from the perspective of a man charged with the nearly impossible job of adapting to that change on a federal level.

So, I have to question the strategy on this. For the publisher to issue a release and come out of the gate with controversial language from the book seems to draw attention to the wrong message. Let book reviewers draw attention to (and form their own opinions on) the content.

Stay positive I always say. And with such a great character to shine a spotlight on, that should have been really easy. One only need say, “What must it have been like to undertake the task of protecting our homeland in the wake of the worst terrorist attack on U.S. soil…Tom Ridge knows.”

Publicists for authors, I’d love your opinions on this one. Was this a smart publicity move? Would you recommend this to a high-profile political client? Would you launch a book in the press this way?

I admit though that the end goal was achieved: I know about the book and I plan to read it.



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