“Some of my fondest memories are of things that never happened,” a prominent lawyer and raconteur told hundreds of guests at a retirement party, poking fun at himself.
The same is true about some of our favorite sayings. Were those words really spoken by the people to whom they’re attributed? Were the words actually their own, or crafted by others? Over time, have the words been refined to make them more pithy and compelling?
Do any of those questions really matter? It depends.
We have lower standards for accuracy if the words apply to long ago, or capture the mood of an era, or are general observations about life.
Examples of those are endless. They stretch from Julius Caesar (“Veni, vidi, and vici — I came. I saw. I conquered”). To Neil Armstrong (“That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”) To Yogi Berra (“It’s déjà vu all over again.”)
What about the issues of the moment? Certainly, we demand higher standards for those. They burn so brightly and generate so much heat. There’s no denying what was said (or not said), since it’s so easy to document everything nowadays.
Nothing seems of more consequence. Every word and action is scrutinized. Every nuance is parsed. What’s the underlying intent? What isn’t being said? What’s it all mean?
Doesn’t matter if you’re the board of a small non-profit trying to explain where the money went, an organization announcing the sudden departure of one CEO and the appointment of a new one, or a celebrity trying to set the record straight about their alleged drug relapse.
When you’re in the spotlight, the pressure is intense. No time to equivocate. You have one chance to get it right. There are no do-overs.
Nor is there any place to hide. Suspicion comes not only from the media. You also face it from employees and co-workers, from investors and donors, from friends and family.
Each audience needs to be handled differently. But they shouldn’t receive different stories.
Your message must be consistent. Tell different stories to different audiences, and you’ll quickly learn how interconnected they are. Your credibility evaporates, and your efforts to reassure collapse.
“Because Reputation Is Your Most Valuable Asset”
Gillott Communications is a Strategic PR firm. We’re Fixers. Crisis & Reputation Management. Litigation. Media Relations. Crisis Prep. More than half a century of expertise working with clients to resolve issues both in and outside the media’s glare — in their professional and personal lives.
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