The Lesson: While it's an extreme example, the 'Cookie Incident' highlights what we tell people in our media training sessions -- that poor media relations skills can cut careers short. Being ambushed by a confrontational reporter isn't fun. But handled properly, you can emerge with your job, reputation and your organization's messages intact. Duckett would have been better served to address the reporters with a brief statement such as:
"This is an important issue. And I can assure you it's one that Alberta Health Services takes very seriously. And while I regret that I'm not in a position to provide you with an official comment on such short notice (I'm actually late getting to another meeting), I'd be happy to speak with you afterward. Here's my card...please call my assistant/communications director and we can schedule an interview for later today. Thank you so much for your understanding."
A response like this would have bought Duckett enough time to prepare for the interview, polish his key messages and finish eating his cookie in peace. And even if CTV had aired the footage of him giving this response, he'd still have a job today. Instead, he was became flustered and was ultimately undone by the only prop at his disposal - a cookie.
But don't cry for Stephen Duckett. As part of his termination settlement, he's entitled to about $680,000 in severance pay, courtesy of the taxpayer.
Any way you cut it, that's a lot of dough.