We all start with a clean sheet. But it fills up fast.
Putting aside the advantages of birth and wealth that some enjoy and others don’t, we are what we write in life’s book. Do we pursue every opportunity, or let them slide past? Do we rise above adversity, or shrink under its weight?
Poet Omar Khayyam’s Moving Finger cuts both ways. Mistakes seal our fate because they are indelible. “Nor all thy tears wash out a word.” But achieving success after success builds a life that is bright and full of promise — until we stumble.
Crisis & Reputation Management deals with the stumbles. Whether they are of our own making, or whether they are situations imposed on us by others. Can you avoid the problem altogether? How do you fix it when it’s occurring? Can you rebuild from the ashes after your reputation is demolished?
The answers: Sometimes. Carefully. Usually not.
We’ve dealt often with the first two. They’re usually the best we can hope for. Watching for red flags and taking action early can nip issues in the bud. Once a situation is in the public domain, you must orchestrate each element of your response — the tone, what you say, what you do, the image you exhibit (contrite, remorseful, defensive, defiant).
What about those whose reputations have been thoroughly shattered? Examples abound. Some slip into obscurity (politicians John Edwards and Todd Akin). Some into infamy (athlete O.J. Simpson and Ponzi schemer Bernie Madoff). Others recover after years in Purgatory (golfer Tiger Woods and former BP CEO Tony Hayward).
Against all odds, a few are reborn Phoenix-like (politicians Mark Sanford of South Carolina and Anthony Weiner of New York whose resurrection seemed assured until he was inundated by a second sexting scandal). But the road back is neither short nor easy. Each step is choreographed. Every moment in the spotlight, every word and action, is painstakingly planned.
There are no happy accidents. Just ugly surprises if you haven’t prepared well.
“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.