Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Herman Cain: Good Brand, Wrong Business

If Newt Gingrich is going to win the nomination, and possibly the election, it is because he is the right brand in the right place at the right time. He is experienced, knowledgeable, politically savvy, positive, business-oriented, and most of all he really seems to want the job. Plus he's already gotten us used to his skeletons.

The country is looking for answers. And they see in him a confident old hand with substantive new ideas that can actually work.

Herman Cain on the other hand is very uncomfortable in his current chosen field, politics. He likes people, clearly (perhaps a bit too much!) but he doesn't know the subject matter. And he isn't skilled at working the issues, the Washington scene, the media. I find myself wondering why Cain hasn't dropped out yet. It's not just the allegations from the (lost count) women who have emerged. It's the fact that he just seems so uncomfortable with any serious question whatsoever.

Cain has said that he's studied leadership, and that a president should be a "Communicator In Chief." (If he is lying about the women he is the best liar I have ever seen.) He likes solving problems with simple, straightforward formulas that appeal to the average person. He relates well generally to Jane and Joe Public - and seems uncomfortable with elites of any kind.

In many ways Cain resembles Sarah Palin, and he could lift a lyric from her song sheet. Sarah is beloved by her fans (I am one), dismissed as a lightweight by her foes (because of the occasional flub), has gone through family scandal and ultimately bypassed official channels to relate directly to the people. She still uses her voice, but in a way that people will better accept - and she doesn't shy away from the truth.

Cain should follow in Palin's footsteps. Womanizing politicians are old news by now - and he has nothing to lose by admitting this proclivity, if it exists. America is a forgiving nation because we embrace the Judaeo-Christian ethic of sin and forgiveness. It is impossible to live and not screw up; what we hate are the people who try and lie about it.

If I were Herman Cain I would do 5 things right now:

1. Fire the lawyer and the communications adviser, who make him look bad again and again

2. Get on TV with his wife to admit that the allegations are dragging their family and the party down, that he is sorry for all this (whether he did anything or not), and that he is seeking therapy to better understand his issues

3. Keep a detailed journal of this time in his life, so that someone can help him write a recovery book later

4. Publish book, which should include a chapter on his issues with women, and on the book tour include a component where he makes peace with those he has harmed and joins an organization promoting more positive values in any area that would be appropriate 5. Join the media in some capacity as a "rehabilitated" public figure with many important things to say - maintaining a strong presence on the lecture circuit, etc.

In the world of branding there is only one moral law: Keep your promises. And if you have broken them, make them right, right quick.

Have a good day everyone, and good luck!

(Note: This blog is a communications commentary, not a political endorsement.)

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