3 Ways to Handle a Mistake

We all make mistakes. It's important how you handle it.

We all make mistakes.
How you handle it is crucial.

You’ve made a mistake. Now what?

Clients usually fall into three categories:

Category 1: Least effective. Live in denial or delusion. Either by insisting that something never happened — or happened very differently — when others can see the facts clearly. Repeating a lie won’t magically make it true.

Think a little boy asked by his Mother about cookies that disappeared from the cookie jar. Or the Emperor in Hans Christian Andersen’s The Emperor’s New Clothes. The same applies to companies, nonprofits, athletes and other celebrities, politicians, and personal relationships.

Category 2: Barely better. Acknowledge and, if possible, correct the mistake. But you can’t let it go and keep rehashing it in your head and publicly. Eventually, it’ll consume you and undermine your reputation.

This alternative starts strong, but falls apart at the end. We see this most often with clients overwhelmed by the fact that something happened in the first place. If left unchecked, the constant rehashing will eat their conscience alive. They turn into a Wall of Worry and shut down.

Category 3: Best response. After you sincerely acknowledge (and, if possible, correct the mistake): Move forward! Shift the spotlight and don’t dwell on it. And don’t forget to be sincere (or at least seem so.)

Think golfer Phil Mickelson, who this week quickly agreed to cough up $1 million in illegal profits from insider trading. His quick action might keep some of his sponsors from fleeing. (Interestingly, the insider tip came from his bookie who wanted Mickelson to pay off past bad debts.)

To read more about moving forward, see How’d This Mess Happen?

Regardless of which category you fall into, your best defense is having someone whose opinion you trust and who’s able to be objective. Because if you don’t trust them, you won’t give their opinion any credence. And if they can’t be objective, then how do you know they’re giving you fair advice?


“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.

You can reach Roger Gillott and Eden Gillott Bowe directly at 310-396-8696.

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.”

Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net


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