Geraldine Ferraro: Pioneer of the marathon press conference

The first woman on a national political ticket left a lasting impact on PR—in 1984 she quashed negative press by holding a two-hour press conference.

The first woman on a national political ticket was a pioneer outside the political realm—she ushered in the crisis communications tactic of the marathon press conference, in which a spokesperson attempts to quash a crisis by taking virtually every question the media can think of, effectively outlasting the reporters.

First, the background: Just days after being selected as Walter Mondale’s vice presidential running mate in July 1984, the press began investigating shady financial dealings involving Ferraro and her husband.

The media circus only intensified when Ferraro made—and then reversed—a pledge to release her husband’s tax returns. When she explained her change of mind, she quipped, “You people who are married to Italian men, you know what it’s like,” which fueled even more critical coverage.

On August 21, 1984, Ms. Ferraro held a nearly two-hour conference in front of 200 reporters. That marathon press conference—unparalleled in modern presidential campaigns—was ostensibly intended to quell the public storm through full disclosure.

It accomplished at least three other crucial things:

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