Be Careful What You Ask

No rule book in Crisis PR. Trust gut. Make no errors.

No rule book in Crisis PR.
Trust gut. Make no errors.

Always a good rule. For everyone. Comparable to the caveat that a lawyer never ask a witness a question unless he already knows the answer.

That was reinforced recently after Idaho’s ban on same-sex marriage was struck down by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. In challenging the ruling, Idaho in effect dared the U.S. Supreme Court to rule “finally and conclusively” whether state laws defining marriage as between a man and a woman were unconstitutional.

Idaho was rolling the dice, presuming the Supreme Court wasn’t prepared to take a stand. After all, the high court so far had sidestepped the issue by declining to hear appeals by a slew of other states whose prohibitions against same-sex marriage were nullified by the courts.

It was a bad bet. Only several hours after Idaho filed its arguments, the Supreme Court rejected Idaho’s petition in a terse, two-sentence statement.

The lesson? When the other guy has all the marbles, be careful what you ask for — and how you ask. Doesn’t matter whether you’re trying to convince a court or guide a reporter.

If you want to bring someone around to your way of thinking, offer reasons that are nuanced and compelling. It rarely, if ever, helps to be threatening or arrogant. That just begets distrust and resistance. Remember, you are the supplicant.

As your mother used to tell you, You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.

Working with the media is different than any other profession, especially in crises. What does a reporter really want? What options do you realistically have? Clients really aren’t expected to know, because they don’t live with the media day in and day out.

There is no rule book. Everything is subjective. What can you say that’s plausible and reassuring? What won’t be laughable or inflammatory? You go with your gut. But no errors are allowed.


“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 and Eden Gillott Bowe directly at 310-396-8696.

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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.”

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