“That’s not nice!” the young assistant frowned after reviewing a storyline being pitched to the media about a nasty lawsuit.
“That’s not the point,” his boss explained calmly. “Our job isn’t to make the other side feel good. It’s to make sure our client wins in the public’s perception.”
That, in a nutshell, is what Crisis & Reputation Management is all about. It’s why the client hires you.
There are limits, of course. It’s not about winning at all costs. Nor is it about lying, because that may well come back and bite you.
But it is about selective truth-telling.
Every story has at least two sides, usually more. The goal is to ensure that your side is told — and believed.
There are many paths to get there.
- You can start the ball rolling with a well-placed, juicy rumor that morphs into a whisper campaign.
- You can provide just enough facts to whet the media’s appetite, then let them run with it.
- You can make outright allegations that blacken the other side’s reputation. (Caveat: It’s safest to do this in a lawsuit because the claims are protected by litigation privilege. Otherwise, you might be liable for libel or slander.)
Consider these actual cases:
The founder of a nonprofit is caught misusing foundation funds as his personal piggy bank. The Board says they’ll let him exit gracefully and without recriminations if he goes promptly and quietly. He does just the opposite, attacking the Board for “undermining all my years of dedicated service,” creating a new competing nonprofit, and taking several major donors with him. What’s the Board to do?
A high-profile employee is forced out of a large company he built. The reasons are murky, and the media does what it does best in such cases: Speculate. As the story dies down, the ousted employee revives it by filing a wrongful-termination suit. What captures attention is the unflattering picture it paints of a company riven by backbiting, infighting and greed.
The goal is always the same. Find a storyline that’s plausible, that the public will embrace, and that makes the client look good (or at least less bad).
“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