Last to Know. First to Go.

When cleaning house, the axe falls fast and without favor.

When cleaning house, the axe
falls fast and without favor.

Historically, this one-liner was applied to basic PR people —  those who do marketing or general communications. They are routinely kept outside the inner circle. It’s a matter of need to know, and they don’t. What’s more, they’re considered expendable.

But it pre-dates the rise of Crisis & Reputation Management — the realization that sensitive situations require specialized, discreet PR people who are brought in to clean up messes quickly, smoothly, and when possible quietly. They share clients’ darkest confidences because what they learn is protected by attorney-client privilege. (That’s why they’re retained through lawyers.)

They should always be consultants, not insiders. Why? Because they’re unaffected by internal struggles and will tell senior management what it needs to know, not what it wants to hear.

Solutions are plentiful. Some are better than others. The hard part is knowing the difference.

There’s one underlying caveat: Don’t make mistakes.

That’s why it came as no surprise this week when GM’s senior vice president of communications and government affairs suddenly departed after four years on the job. His mistake was being so protective in burying mid-size quality-control problems that they festered and eventually erupted into major scandals that shook the company to its foundations.

GM’s new CEO, Mary Barra, is cleaning house. The axe will fall quickly and hopefully without favor.

The public has no tolerance for protecting those deemed responsible for wrongdoing. Of late, Boards of Directors and corporate chieftains are realizing that they, too, must toe the same line. The alternative is suspicion and loss of reputation (your own and your company’s). If you fail to take charge, your head is also on the block.


“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.

If you don’t already subscribe, please sign up for our blog, Insights on High-Stakes PR.

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.”

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