Caught with your hand in the proverbial cookie jar?
You got some ‘splainin’ to do!
The first rule: Put your mind in gear before you open your mouth. The alternative is rarely pretty.
The second: Be plausible. Even if not entirely truthful, be close enough to stand the tests of time and scrutiny.
At all costs, avoid explanations that will quickly fall apart and force you to backtrack. That’s embarrassing and damaging. Plus it feeds the media frenzy, causing reporters to dig deeper and speculate more. If this much is a lie, they wonder, how much more aren’t we being told?
A recent high-profile case in point: Standard Chartered, the 5th-largest bank in the UK. It agreed to pay a New York State regulator $340 million to resolve allegations that it had laundered $250 billion in funds for Iran. Only eight days earlier, when the NY regulator first levied the charges, the bank vigorously pooh-poohed them as foolishness.
A big and expensive black eye for the reputation of a highly regarded global financial institution.
What’s more, this doesn’t end the bank’s liability. It’s still under investigation by federal agencies, including the Federal Reserve and U.S. Treasury, and faces the possibility of more penalties.
Of course there’s no shortage of other examples, such as the sex scandals involving athletes Tiger Woods and Kobe Bryant and politician John Edwards, all of whom denied the allegations as long as they could.
The lesson: It’s rarely helpful to deny what is obvious or will soon become known. A mea culpa can be painful. But it can help put an issue behind you.
Remember talk-show host David Letterman’s sex scandal? I didn’t think so.
“Because Reputation Is Your Most Valuable Asset”
Gillott Communications is a Los Angeles-based public relations firm that specializes in high-stakes Crisis & Reputation Management. If you don’t already subscribe, please sign up for our blog Insights on High-Stakes PR. You can reach Roger Gillott directly at 310-826-8696.