November 6th, 2014 - Crisis Communication, Media Training

No winners when you play the blame game

I met Danielle Smith for the first time at Rod Love’s memorial last Saturday.

During the many tributes, Danielle stood beside our group. Her eyes were wet. Her emotions on her sleeve. Her personal strength evident.

During the reception, I made a point to tell her I was impressed with a leader so present and connected to the moment. (Particularly at an event where many showed up to pointedly schmooze … their eyes wildly looking over your shoulder for someone more important to chat with.)

Of course, this chance meeting came in the midst of a turbulent week for the leader of the Wildrose Party. Dismal by-election results, her leadership in question, an elected caucus member in flight, and arrows of blame flying with abandon. (For background, read Graham Thomson: .)

I’ve got to agree with Graham that it was a very bad week for Danielle. And I am sure that there’s a lot of blame to go around, but as an outside observer I’d say there’s a couple of key things that need to get fixed quickly within the Wildrose Party (WRP).

  1. The party needs an infusion of new and smart talent. Talent that will put the games of negativity and personality behind them and serve their leader.
  1. Danielle and her elected team need to take smart advice. You can have the best talent pool in the world, but if you refuse to listen, if you refuse to implement good strategy, you are doomed to failure.

If the above were in place, Danielle’s very bad week wouldn’t have ended with the very bizarre news conference about whether Joe Anglin taped meetings. And let’s be clear, both of the above need to happen for a team to be effective. Frankly, it’s about discipline. Be psychotically over prepared whether you are the one preparing, or the one being prepared. And be smart about it.

I don’t know what went wrong. Was she prepped with strategic messaging and savvy media training? Did she practice the hard questions and refine her points? Was she ready for the intensity that the media brought and normally reserve for the party in power?

Did these things happen and she refused to listen?

Or was she sent to the wolves with no strategy, no support, and no practice?

I left Rod’s memorial Saturday a fan of Danielle Smith the person. But my peek into the WRP left me scratching my head.

With gratitude,

Shannon Larkins

Inspired by a little blackcoffee

Some of my favourite moments are spent in search of something beautiful while I drink my first cup of coffee and hear the house wake up. From there I move on to the paper and the news of the day. In this space, I’ll share some of those inspirations.


Shannon Larkins

Founder, Blackcoffee Studio

Over the course of 15+ years, Shannon has grown Blackcoffee Studio out of a love for building brands and reputations. She serves up Blackcoffee as a morning ritual while caffeinating clients and readers on the regular. You can find her at


Blackcoffee Studio

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Shannon Larkins

Shannon Larkins

Hi I’m Shannon, founder of Blackcoffee Studio. A former reporter, spin doctor and politico, I now focus on using my powers for good.

I create mighty brands for clients and share their stories with the world. I’m also rather addicted to my nutty family, dogs with pushed in faces, Mexico and of course coffee … black.