Answering the Tough Questions

Emotional boo-boo? Best to rip the Band-Aid

Emotional boo-boo?
Best to rip the Band-Aid.

When trouble erupts, it’s natural to want to hunker down. But silence isn’t a viable option. The hardest pill to swallow may be realizing you need to set the record straight.

People often have things they’d prefer to keep quiet because it’s embarrassing, damning, painful, or a combination of everything. Problem is, you don’t get your druthers.

Consider this all-too-frequent conversation:

Us: We need to address this issue now. If we don’t, people will speculate.
Client: Let them speculate all they want. I don’t care.
Us: Trust me. You will care. If you stay silent, it’ll only cause more questions. By reporters, investors, the public, your family, opposing counsel. They want to know.
Client: But it’s none of their [insert your favorite expletive] business!
Us: That may be true. And I understand how painful this it. But if you don’t bite the bullet now, the pain will only be worse later.

The goal is simple. Get out in front and frame the story on your terms. Otherwise, you’ll fall farther and farther behind. You can hold your breath and wish it away as much as you’d like, but you won’t be doing yourself any favors.

When you know that something is going to be made public soon, you shouldn’t waste your precious time in denial. You need to figure out how you’re going to frame your story.

There’s a time-honored rule in our business: We often talk about how you don’t answer the question you’re asked. Instead, answer the one you want. (The reason it’s time-honored is because it works so well.)

Here are two things you can do put this into practice:

First, ask yourself, How can I sidestep this so I don’t seem evasive?

Remember: Different audiences have different needs. Reporters just want a pithy quote. Investors just want to be reassured their money is safe. The public and your family just want to an explanation that’s reasonable and comforting. Opposing counsel — well, they’ll never be satisfied.

Second, shift the conversation. What would you prefer to focus on?

Do you have a bright, shiny object to distract them with? Can you plausibly steer their attention to someone or something else?

Lesson: Rip the Band-Aid. Make the story short-lived. Then quickly move on.


“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.

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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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