This post is for PR people and anyone in a leadership position.
Most of your organizations, at some point, will have a crisis.
Predicting that is easy because organizations are composed of humans and we’re all fallible.
In the coming months we’ll continue to see lying, cheating, stealing and some very weird fetishes.
And, as we’ve noticed over the past few years, it’s getting really hard to hide things.
As an FBI official in Ali Soufan’s The Black Banners says, there are no secrets, only “delayed disclosures.” If you made a mistake, admit it. If you’ve done bad, come clean quickly.
Crisis moments are multiplying fast in our social media world. Two people come to mind in just the past few weeks. Penn State President Graham Spanier, gave one of the worst first responses in the history of higher ed during the debut of the Sandusky scandal. Chancellor Robert Birgeneau apologized for his police force who beat students and faculty during Occupy Cal. The problem was that the weak apology was recorded on his way to spend Thanksgiving with his family, nearly two weeks after the incident.
Listen to your PR people and come clean with as much grace as you can.
If you can’t come clean, resign.
And if your PR people tell you they can spin it, fire them and find PR pros who’ll help you with the truth.
Misbehavior has been part of mankind’s story since the Old Testament. The misuse of sex, money, and power have been constants in our continuing story.
Which means there are more of you out there. You’re going to have sex in ways not acceptable to society. You’re going to acquire money in ways you’re not supposed to. You’ll abuse power a little or a lot. Some ambitious folks will do all three.
In today’s media savvy society, chances are good that you’ll be caught. When you do, don’t try to spin it, downplay it, lie about it or ignore it.
Deal with it up front and immediately and accept the consequences.
There really isn’t any other option these days. A tiny list of the fallen: Bernie Madoff, Tiger Woods, Jerry Sandusky, Joe Paterno, Anthony Weiner and a whole boatload of priests.
There are no secrets in this world anymore. Bad acts, when caught — by anyone— can spread worldwide with a vengeance that amazes even seasoned PR folks like myself.
Now, I know one other thing: if you’ve committed any of these acts, you’re probably too arrogant or insulated to think you’re going to suffer any consequences. You may think you’re above the law.
So I’ll turn my attention back to PR people: if your boss asks you to hide, twist or lie about an incident that might cause the boss or your organization pain, refuse.
In the worst case, resign.
Your integrity is hard to retrieve once you’ve abandoned it.