In the wake of the Boston Marathon bombings I was impressed by the impromptu press conference given by the uncle of the suspects. I wanted to know if this was an effective form of communication. To answer this question I contacted a professional in the field of public relations and communication.
Here is what I learned:
As a media event, the uncle did several things correctly:
1. He apologized for the atrocity committed by his family members
2. He spoke well of family (e.g., he said “they are hard working”) and he made the broader concept of family, his or anyone’s, important.
3. He spoke well of country, his native land (“You have put a shame on the entire Chechan ethnicity” ) and of his adopted country (“I respect this country. I love this country. This country gives chance to everybody else to be treated as a human being.”)
4. He got his message out early.
It’s almost as if he’d had media training. By getting his message out early, his points are those that help frame and shape public opinion, they are what gets replayed most often in the media cycle. It would be fair to argue that, as a result of his actions, people feel sorry for the family of the suspected bombers, and are not blaming them. They are hard working, they just want to be free to worship, etc.
The negative is that the press conference could backfire:
1. If he had stayed quiet, people might not have realized the relationship and left him and his family alone (But with Internet genealogy available to everyone, being left alone was not likely to be an option).
2. Now that he has come forward so publicly, he has made himself a public figure and, consequently, available to public opinion and scrutiny.