“At the length, truth will out.”
~ Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice, 1596
Some lessons are never really learned. Such as that secrets seldom stay secret for long. Certainly not forever. Hard as we try, they always leak.
This month, three companies suffered the consequences:
- Reports surfaced that Takata, the Japanese auto parts maker, manipulated test results to cover up problems with airbag inflaters for at least 15 years. Engineers reportedly raised concerns in the late 1990s, but their concerns went unheeded.
- Coca-Cola’s top scientist is stepping down after revelations that she orchestrated the creation and Coke’s funding of “independent research” that downplayed the role of sugary drinks in causing obesity.
- New York’s attorney general is investigating whether Exxon lied to the public about risks of climate change and to investors about how those risks might hurt the oil industry. At issue are Exxon’s public statements and funding of outside groups to undermine climate-change claims, even as its own scientists warned executives of dangers and uncertainties.
Notice a trend?
Perhaps it’s innate. You want to keep the bad hidden and to manipulate what’s in the public realm to your benefit. But wishing it so, doesn’t make it so.
You will look worse as a result. When the internal reports that were buried, the warnings that were ignored and the email paper trail finally come to light, you will seem complicit at best and conspiratorial at worst.
Society is cynical and skeptical. By default, it believes the worst and withholds trust until you prove you’re worthy.
That’s why, in Reputation Management, keeping secrets is a terrible idea — right alongside lying. It will come back to haunt you.
That’s also why, when a Crisis PR team is evaluating a new client, their most important job is listening for what the client isn’t saying. That often speaks the loudest.
“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.
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.”
Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net