From a PR perspective using the name Adolf Hitler in a press statement is never a good idea. To say that someone is worse than Hitler is not advisable either– Hitler was indirectly responsible for 42 million deaths, and his hatred and cruelty is hard to fathom. So, Sean Spicer's recent Hitler comment not only seemed to break the basic rules of public relations– but his bizarre and awkward attempt to explain his comments was hard to watch. As a rule, here are 5 tips for the smart spokesperson.
Don’t use historic comparisons unless you have the facts, and consider the consequences. President Trump looked bad when he said “Frederick Douglass is an example of somebody who’s done an amazing job and is getting recognized more and more, I notice.” Most 4th graders knew he was way off.
Any Hitler reference is dangerous. This was, after all, the madman who plunged the world into war, and exterminated millions of innocents. Any reference to Hitler is likely to be insulting for his victims, and trying to pull of a Hitler reference on Passover is not cool.
Know when to stop. If you are in hole, don’t dig it deeper – stop, think it through and pivot back to a safe talking point. The more you dig, the deeper you get…
Don’t assume everyone knows history. You might think you are smart by saying the Monroe Doctrine is the keystone of US foreign policy, until you realize that most Americans have no idea what you are talking about.
If you get it wrong just apologize. It is ok to be human, and if you admit you went down the wrong path you will still face consequences, but they will not be as harsh and long term.