All too often news stories are written without a key component: Input from the persons or entities being written about. Typically, of course, these are stories with some degree of adversity attached. A once touted development project now plagued with cost overruns and false promises. A religious organization facing personnel issues with serious legal ramifications. An historically successful company now announcing layoffs and cutbacks. And while some may think it prudent to stick their heads in the sand and say nothing, the reality is: why let someone else speak for you?
There is absolutely no substitute for addressing a conflict head on – with honesty, transparency and some type of explanation. After all, if a story is being written about your company, its people or projects, why wouldn’t you at least want to provide perspective and tell your side of the story? What are your cost overruns attributable to? What is being done to correct them? How are you working with law enforcement to handle an employee’s legal issues? When did you first learn of the behavior and how quickly did you act? Why are you cutting staff? What is the rationale? Is it about making tough decisions in the short term in order to ensure the company is more viable in the long run?
Say nothing, and who knows? Say nothing and others are forced to speculate. Say nothing and the news media will look to industry experts to try to make some sense of it all. Matt and I are sometimes criticized for being quoted so often in news stories on issues – especially crisis related – where we have expertise. But what those critics need to keep in mind is that we don’t contact the media, they contact us. Because their storyline subjects don’t return their calls. Because those subjects choose not to communicate. What’s the old adage? You snooze, you lose?
Understandable in our litigious society is the need to be prudent in what you say and how you say it. Sometimes, a written statement makes sense. In crisis situations we are not fans of persons or entities standing behind a spokesperson (in particular one not directly employed by the organization). Rather, the buck should stop with the top-ranking official, such as a CEO or President. In the end, you can and should always say something. Say nothing and you are throwing caution to the wind; a wind that could become a tempest you can no longer control.