What I Learn About PR From Andrew Cuomo

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo talking about covid-19

What I Learn About PR From Andrew Cuomo

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo quoting his father Mario CuomoI’m glued to Andrew Cuomo’s press conferences every day. It’s not only because New York is the center of the coronavirus drama, it’s because this is an extraordinary lesson in how to be a chief executive in a time of crisis. It’s about logical, rational, proactive communication delivered in a small, secluded setting that is available to us all.

What Cuomo appears to deliver effortlessly, is actually tightly scripted and choreographed. There are many elements working in tandem to frame Cuomo’s daily civics lesson on managing a hot spot in a pandemic.

We can start with confidence, which can’t be taught. It’s earned. He has the confidence in his own ability to consider and analyze the shifting elements of this complex, urgent situation. We, desperately seeking comfort that someone is handling this, feel we are in competent hands. He’s taking full responsibility.

Notice his wardrobe: Optics matter. He knows it. Sometimes an off-the-rack Albany suit works. Sometimes he has the emblem of the state on a polo shirt. Governors shine during natural disasters. They’re in the field, in command, marshaling forces in field gear. In a suit when in a legislative mindset. Politicians think like that. So should executives.

Notice the visuals. Whoever does his Powerpoint deserves a prize. His visuals, which by necessity must change every day, ameliorate his narrative and seem to work smoothly so we absorb the critical information. You labor over a ppt presentation for a week? Imaging turning these around in hours, pulling in info from many sources.

Today, the press conference was at the Javits Center in Manhattan. As a backdrop, we saw the supplies that will be the most important focus of the press conference. New York has an urgent need for more supplies now. He delivered that message in words and images.

Notice his hands. When you’re Italian your hands are an extension of your heart and voice.  Actually, his hands are restrained, but they are at the ready for emphasis.

He has clear goals!! New York needs 30,000 ventilators and for the covid-19 peak in 14 – 21 days, and the state needs 140,000 hospital beds. Based on the available data and projections, he’s marshaling resources to meet that goal. We’re on board with him. We have a common goal, and a benchmark for success.

Empathy. Also, something that can’t be taught. You feel it r you don’t. People connect with you because you’re human. You share their hopes, fears, and desires. You may make tough decisions, but it comes from a loving place.

Politicians, and executives, are straining to find the silver lining in this crisis. Cuomo does it by relaying his personal experience with his daughter. We’re parents, or children with parents. We empathize.

Andrew Cuomo: “You have more time with family. . . It’s the most precious commodity. . . This young lady Cara is with me. She would never be here otherwise. I’m dad. The last thing you want to be when you’re in Cara’s position is hang out with the old man and hang out with dad and hear bad dad jokes. They’ll come for the holidays. They’ll come when I give them heavy guilt. But I’m now going to be with Cara literally for a few months. What a beautiful gift that is, right? I would’ve never had that chance, and that is precious. This crazy situation, as crazy as it is, gave me this beautiful gift.”


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Mark Rose

Founder Finsquared, The New Equation in PR.