Is Anyone Really Surprised?


Best result in Crisis PR? No story. Next best: Making it less painful. Photo courtesy of

Best result in Crisis PR? No story.
Next best: Making it less painful.

Photo courtesy of

Recently, a group of people was sitting around a table for an informal chat. The topic du jour: Is Edward Snowden a hero or a criminal? Responses were predictable based on people’s political leanings: He should be applauded for revealing intrusions on American citizens, or he’s a traitor who should be hanged (or worse).

But one stood out: “Is anyone really surprised that the NSA spies on us and that the government conducts extensive cyber-attacks on enemies and allies alike?” Silence. No one disputed it. They just would have preferred not to know.

Life is so much simpler that way. If you don’t know something’s true,  you can pretend it doesn’t exist. That allows you to believe myths so sincerely and passionately.

Where should we file this? Under wishful thinking? Being in denial? Excessive optimism à la  the fictional characters Pollyanna and Pangloss (the teacher of Candide), who embrace whatever happens as the best of all possible worlds.

That’s not an option for those who do Crisis & Reputation Management. The rules are different — and the outcome for being wrong is harsh:

    • Always presume the worst. (That’s usually the truth.)
    • Always presume it will become public. (That’s better than being surprised later.)
    • Prepare now to deal with the storm. (Because if it does come, it’ll be painful — like getting whacked with a two-by-four.)

Then focus on your preferred goal: Keeping your client out of the media. Always desirable. But not always achievable.

Be realistic. That makes the solutions clearer. Is an issue already in the media? If so, it’s not going back in the bottle. Not public yet, but likely to become so soon? When it does, it will go from bad to worse fast. So use your time now to get ahead of the curve.

Best of all worlds for Crisis & Reputation Management: Convincing the media that the client’s not culpable — that no story really exists. That’s a feat.

Fallback: Making the situation less painful.


“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.


One thought on “Is Anyone Really Surprised?

  1. Your commentary should be on a brass plaque at the entrance of every corporation so that management can see it each day when they walk in. The company may be in denial, but the public isn’t. Management will HOPE for the best; the media will assume the worst. Words to live by.

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