When Toronto mayor Rob Ford held a live press conference on Tuesday, a lot was on the line. The mayor had been accused of smoking crack and there were calls for his resignation. After months of denial, Ford finally admitted that, yes, he had smoked crack in the past.
"I made mistakes in the past and all I can do is apologize,” he said. “But it is what it is and I can't change the fact, and I can apologize to my family, my friends, my colleagues and the people of this great city."
Despite the gravity of these revelations, what stuck out for many was not what Mayor Ford said or didn’t say – e.g, that he would step down from office – but what he was wearing.
During the live press conference, several people across social media were focusing on his choice of neckwear – a boldly colored NFL logo tie. Across social networks such as Facebook (FB), Twitter (TWTR) and Tumblr, people shared photos and links that emphasized the necktie, rather than the dialogue. Our own Yahoo Sports even featured a necktie-centric story.
And why were tweeters and Facebook users so transfixed on his necktie? Was it the disconnect between his message and apparel? Or is the array of visual stimuli on social media so overwhelming that we can’t help but respond?
And, really, what was the mayor thinking?
“Even if it sounds unfair, the reality is that optics matter,” says Mike Paul (aka @ReputationDr), a reputation and crisis expert. “What you should wear depends on what your goal is, and how you want to be positioned.”
Clearly all eyes were on Ford during his press conference. But, unfortunately for him, “loud and flashy clothing may attract attention but won’t attract respect or credibility,” says Kevin Mercuri, president and founder of Propheta Communications.
It’s safe to say Ford did not command much respect at this particular event.
But, that said, he may have elicited the exact response he was hoping for. Perhaps Ford's strategy was in the tradition of defense attorney Clarence Darrow, who, as legend has it, distracted jurors away from the facts of a case by using a wire in his cigar to keep the ash from falling. Maybe all Ford wanted was to distract his audience from focusing on his very serious admission.
So was Mayor Ford acting crazy by wearing a wildly inappropriate necktie – or was he crazy like a fox?
What are your thoughts? Comment below or let me know on Twitter @StephYFinance.
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