In the PR world, the Dead Cat Strategy – or ‘Dead Catting – is the introduction of a shocking, dramatic or sensationalist topic to divert attention from a more a damaging issue that someone wants to keep hidden from the media, and therefore the public.
It’s particularly relevant – but not exclusive to – the world of politics and is apparently the brainchild of the Australian political strategist Lynton Crosby whom Boris Johnson employed during the 2008 and 2012 London mayoral elections.
In reality, the tactic had been around for years with organisations working on ways to avoid a communications crisis, but it really came to prominence as a result of Johnson ‘going public’ on the nature of the beast.
“The key point …is that everyone will shout,’ Jeez mate, there’s a dead cat on the table!’
“In other words, they will be talking about the dead cat – the thing you want them to talk about – and they will not be talking about the issue that has been causing you so much grief.” [Boris Johnson 2012, as reported in Prospect ]
Another example from the world of politics is from 2016 when D*n*ld Tr*mp was accused of criticizing the cast of Hamilton in order to distract from a legal settlement, with CNN calling this “a particularly malodorous dead cat”.