We Have No Time for Yoga Pants

By MARK RIFFEY for the Flathead Beacon Newspaper

Whether you believe the yoga pants thing was a joke or not, it doesn’t really matter.

Here’s a list of things that do:

Q: How many businesses who are considering opening a branch in Montana discussed this story this week and perhaps had to explain / defuse it to their financial backers or others?
A: I don’t think we’ll ever know. Maybe none, maybe plenty – probably a small number. Is this the kind of thing you want their executive team to be discussing? I don’t think so. If it only changes one mind about the people and state of Montana, it’s one too many.

Q: How many college seniors on the home stretch in Missoula, Bozeman, Billings, Havre, Kalispell (etc) are having second thoughts about staying in a place where legislators have time to waste on issues like yoga pants and speedos?
A: I don’t think we’ll ever know. Maybe none, maybe plenty. Again, probably a small number. Perhaps a better question is this: Are these the kinds of things that we want college seniors thinking about when deciding whether or not to stay home and work in Montana?

Q: How much time did Montana business people spend undoing the public relations damage that this “event” stirred up?
A: I don’t think we can measure this, but I can assure you it wasn’t zero. In my case, it came up on my first conference call of the day morning after it hit the news – and no one else on the call was from Montana. It went something like “Mark, thanks for what you did last week, and hey, what in the world is going on in your legislature?” followed by several minutes of joking about Montana, speedos and so on, followed by me spending 20 minutes trying to undo the PR damage this created. By that morning’s call, the news had reached both coasts and no one on the call was caught unaware of the story. It came up again in client calls later that week. Another business person that I chatted with said she heard about it from people as far away as Chile.


Q: What else happened in the Montana House and Senate while this was exploding in the media?
A: I don’t know if anyone involved is 1) smart enough to use this as an intentional distraction, or 2) dumb enough to believe that it’s possible to distract the people of Montana away from the rest of the legislature’s work. Choice 1 was the first thing that crossed my mind when I heard about it, but that’s probably a knee jerk indicator of my legislative cynicism.

Q: How much time did the Montana film office, Montana tourism and other “public faces of the state” have to spend defusing this kind of public relations?
A: Again, I don’t believe we’ll ever know – but it’s safe to say that zero isn’t the answer.

Why are you in Helena?

If you read the now-dead bill, it’s clear that yoga pants and speedos were not part of the proposed language. Whether you believe the rep’s account of the story or the AP’s is irrelevant. (Print readers, see the story here)
What isn’t irrelevant is that the people we send to Helena take their work seriously every minute they’re there. It only takes an instant of poor judgment to hurt the state and its people in ways we may not be able to measure. It’s far too easy for a misstep to make an elected official the center of attention, a distraction or the topic of a Saturday Night Live skit.

Being a representative means that everything you say and do on the floor of the House or Senate, or to the press, affects the reputation of your family, your district, your community, Montana businesses and the people of Montana. As I tell business people, anything you do is everything you do when it comes to your reputation.

Montanans need to have the trust and faith that the people they’ve sent to Helena will serve them and the entire state to the best of their ability. Hopefully the positive from this event is that it will refocus at least one rep’s understanding of that need. It’s personal to all of us.


2014-08-20_0819Want to learn more about Mark or ask him to write about a strategic, operations or marketing problem? See Mark’s sitecontact him on Twitter, or email him atmriffey@flatheadbeacon.com.  Check out the Flathead Beacon archive of all of Mark’s blogs.