Challenge: “A Rising Tide of Criticism”
Help the client battle back misinformation and unfair and unfounded criticism from a number of stakeholders with a common political agenda.
When politics taint the waters, the way ahead can be rough. And you need a good crew and a strong resolve to help navigate through that storm. In this case, McFarland recommended a government agency launch a listening tour across the state to better understand the basis for and the source of growing public criticism of the agency. That criticism had already resulted in the resignation of the agency’s leadership, spurred a class-action lawsuit, generated significant negative news stories, and was driving hardworking and dedicated professionals to leave the agency for more peaceful waters. The listening tour consisted of private meetings with service providers, association leaders, prosecutors, and local officials to collect feedback and input on issues of concern. That direct input – free from third-party filters, spin and ginned up sensationalism – would enable agency leaders to determine what was fact, what was fiction, and where opportunities for collaboration lay ahead.
Success! While the new acting agency leader had been very skeptical of launching the listening tour (and who could blame him after what his predecessor had been put through), he did drive the boat forward into the stormy waters and invite adversaries aboard to be heard. He emerged with new insights and encouragement, opportunities for improvement, commitments for collaboration, and solutions to resolve pending litigation and avert reactive and unnecessary legislation. Sometimes, it doesn’t take a full-on counter attack to defeat the problem. Sometimes all it takes is a listening ear and willingness to find common ground.
“You were right. We should have done this a long time ago.”