Regardless of what one thinks of Andrew Little's decision to resign as the Labour Party's leader at this stage of the election cycle, his communication gets top marks from a public relations perspective. The way it was handled PR wise was a fine example of how to step down from the top position with grace, as these extracts from his parting statement illustrate.
“Obviously this is a sad decision, I have been privileged to have led a united, talented team of Labour MPs, proud to have progressed the values and issues that New Zealanders care about…”
Little here pays tribute to the organisation he loves; there is no bitterness or rancour. An essential element of a good exit.
“The Labour team of MPs and staff have worked incredibly hard during my leadership, however, recent poll results have been disappointing. As leader, I must take responsibility for these results. I do take responsibility and believe that Labour must have an opportunity to perform better under new leadership through to the election.”
Little courageously takes the blame for Labour’s disastrous polling and generously makes way for a new face, another vital element of a positive step down.
The way Little left provided his successor, Jacinda Ardern, with a double boost.
An ugly, contested resignation would have drawn negative media attention and bad public relations, further damaging the Party and undermining Jacinda’s crucial first days.
An honest and dignified exit meant the media focus was on the incomer, who got vast coverage and was able to demonstrate her engaging, political personality to a vast Kiwi audience. She has a mountain to climb but her ex-boss has given her a significant leg-up.
Business can take some big PR lessons from this political drama.
Compare Little’s exit to the resignation of Uber CEO, Travis Kalanick. He was forced out when investors owning 40 per cent to Uber shares insisted of his resignation. This was after three months of horrendous publicity alleging gender bias, sexism, bullying and sexual harassment at Uber. The company remains badly tarnished and Kalanick’s reputation is in tatters. Not the way to go.
So, what are the public relations lessons on a good exit:
1. Always try to leave on good terms emphasising whatever your mistakes you had the company’s interest at heart. If you cannot say anything good, say nothing.
2. Admit your mistakes and try to show you have learned from them. Do not blame others, they can bite back badly.
3. Do not burn bridges. The top CEO world is small, you may need the good will of the individuals you have attacked later in your career.