A couple whose marriage was on the rocks was sitting with a divorce mediator, explaining how the other didn’t understand them and said hurtful things.
“Well, they’re just words,” said the mediator, thinking he’d hit upon a solution to the problem.
“No,” snapped the couple, both professional writers. “You don’t comprehend the damage.”
The same is true with those who end up in the media’s spotlight, whether because of accusations made by others or gaffes committed by themselves. Words cut deeply, and those being written about are hyper-sensitized to every nuance.
Why was one concept chosen for the story’s lead? Why wasn’t the sequence of paragraphs different? Why did the writer opt to use one word rather than another? Was there a hidden meaning or bias? Who is feeding the reporter information and coloring his perception?
All good questions. But rarely can they be effectively answered by those who are the target. They’re too close, unable to be dispassionate. For the same reasons, they’re least capable of engineering an effective response.
That’s when they bring in outside Crisis PR counsel — someone who deals with such issues daily, who knows the rhythms of the media, who is skilled at putting the best face on bad situations and reversing inaccurate stories.
Are there guarantees in Crisis & Reputation Management? No. Quick turnarounds from negative to positive aren’t always possible. They are the exception. Once negative momentum takes hold, sometimes the best you can achieve in the short-term is to make the situation go sideways rather than backward.
Other times, you exceed expectations. The result is more positive, and it comes more quickly. The client is happy, and you’re the hero.
“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.