A professional liar and a PR guy walk into a bar. How can you tell the difference?
This is fill-in-the-blank humor. At least, an attempt at humor. No one right answer. So have at it.
But consider this:
- A professional liar lies — by definition.
- A Crisis PR person mustn’t. A little misdirection is acceptable, but not too much. So is emphasizing the positive and deflecting the negative. That’s expected.
Just don’t cross the line. No matter how you try to sugar-coat it — as a little white lie, a fib, a half-truth — a lie is still a lie. You will be caught, and neither the media nor the public will forgive. Your credibility is in peril. So is the client’s. When that happens, you’ve lost the battle and the war.
You must respond quickly, forcefully and credibly to accusations.
Take the recriminations swirling around the IRS. What you believe about the situation probably depends on your politics. But the essential questions are straightforward. Was the process politicized? Are all groups that apply for tax-exempt status voluntarily opening themselves to scrutiny? Were certain groups singled out, while others weren’t? Who knew what when?
It will be a while before these questions are resolved definitively — if they ever are.
This is no time to sit idly waiting for answers. To its credit, the Administration acted quickly to assert control. It fired the IRS director and appointed a White House official to take over and get to the bottom of it. Soon thereafter, the head of the tax-exempt office was placed on leave.
Taking control doesn’t exculpate you. It does demonstrate you are seeking to remedy a situation. This buys you breathing room.
In an ideal world, you will know the facts beforehand so you can fix problems becomes they public. Regrettably that’s not always possible.
“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.