Loose Lips & Paper Trails

If you don't want it public don't put it in writing

If you don’t want it public
don’t put it in writing

In World War II it was, “Loose Lips Sink Ships.” The U.S. War Advertising Council created the slogan to caution that loose talk was a threat to the nation, the military and ultimately the public.

Today the challenge is the same, but the danger is digital. Not only for governments, but also for businesses, nonprofit organizations and individuals. If it’s in writing, it will be discovered and disclosed.

On the largest scale, think Edward Snowden, Julian Assange and Chelsea (formerly Bradley) Manning, who obtained and revealed mountains of sensitive government information.

Or the bitter tug-of-war that’s been going on for years between the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee and CIA over access to classified documents. (Senate investigators obtained a report the CIA didn’t want them to see, so the CIA investigated the Senate to find out how they got it. Now each is accusing the other of spying on it, and the Justice Department is playing referee.)

Or New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, whose political career suffered a severe setback when the Bridgegate scandal blew up after internal emails surfaced indicating he knew more and knew it earlier than he had admitted.

The lesson is obvious: Don’t put anything in writing that you wouldn’t want to see on the front page of the New York Times.

People keep forgetting that. Some have short memories. Others feel compelled to keep records. Still others just want to show how smart they are and how well they succeeded — and what better and easier way to do that than to put it in an email to the boss.

Some people do get it, intuitively. Recently a client CEO glanced at a sheet of paper he’d been handed with a list of sensitive questions, then looked up: “I see why you didn’t want to email this.” Then he shared horror stories of emails he’d received from people within his organization and how he had to take them aside and explain why they must never do that.

It’s a basic tenet of Crisis & Reputation Management, and it’s why the Crisis PR team must know everything — to protect from unpleasant surprises.


“Because Reputation Is Your Most Valuable Asset”

Gillott Communications is a Strategic PR firm. We’re Fixers. Crisis & Reputation Management. Litigation. Media Relations. Crisis Preparation & Training. You can reach Roger Gillott directly at 310-826-8696.

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For a deeper glimpse into our world, see our book on Amazon, “A Lawyer’s Guide to Crisis PR: Protecting Your Clients In & From the Media.”

Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net


One thought on “Loose Lips & Paper Trails

  1. Very astute observations and true! As an attorney, I often see how information shared that should have remained confidential can have a detrimental effect. The most recent example is a father who received a settlement from his former employer and then his daughter bragged about it on social media. As a result, that disclosure, even from her, was found to be a violation of the confidentiality provision in the settlement agreement and he had to return the money. I have also known of employees who send very personal and damning emails using the company’s system where there is NEVER an expectation of privacy, only to have those emails revealed during discovery in connection with a lawsuit.

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