An ounce of preparation is worth a Pound of apologies

Dick Pound (the former head of the World Anti-Doping Agency, an officer of the Order of Canada and a Vancouver Olympic Committee board member) has done hundreds of media interviews throughout his career. This is someone who knows how the process works. Which makes his recent remarks in La Presse that much more surprising.

In the August 9th article, Mr. Pound was defending the holding of the Summer Olympics in Beijing despite China's spotty human rights record. The quote in question:

"We must not forget that 400 years ago, Canada was a land of savages, with scarcely 10,000 inhabitants of European descent, while in China, we're talking about a 5,000 year-old civilization."

The comment is nearly three months old. But it was brought to the surface last week when it was learned that a Quebec aboriginal-rights group has filed a complaint with the International Olympic Committee's ethics committee over the remarks.

A story in the Globe and Mail on October 22 said, "Mr. Pound subsequently characterized what he said as a clumsy comment that has been taken out of context."

From a communications standpoint, this is concerning for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the fact that Vancouver is next in line to host the games. B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell has taken Pound to task in the media, calling the comments 'disgraceful' and demanding an apology.

We often tell clients to use colourful analogies, examples or anecdotes to help tell their stories. When properly thought through, it can be quite powerful. But in this instance, in trying to make an argument for China, he inadvertently threw Canada under the bus.

In the end, it comes down to an unfortunate choice of words. Today, one day after the Globe and Mail article appeared, Dick Pound has officially apologized for his comments. That was definitely the right call. Failing to do so would have lead to a lingering, growing issue in the months ahead. Being the experienced spokesperson he is, Dick Pound recognized that. If he had only put a bit more thought into his key messages a few months ago, this whole scenario could have been avoided.