As I build my business, I wonder if one day one of my clients will get mixed up in such a mess, the phone will ring off the hook with the media on the other line. From Alex Rodriguez to Tiger Woods to now three companies pointing the finger at each other over the Gulf oil spill. At some point, I would imagine most communicators and marketers must enter the ethical zone and make a decision. Of course, a client who once seemed crystal clean may dip their toes into controversy no one ever expected. But what happens when you latch onto a client you just can’t reconcile with your own boundaries of “doing the right thing”?
Countless times, my husband Keith the reporter has been in a room interviewing a PR person that puts so much spin on something, everyone in the room knows it’s BS. Is that what it comes down to? No matter how ridiculous the situation, our job is to push a positive message even when it bumps heads with reality? My hope is as the theory of transparency picks up more fans, the truth without too much topspin is the way out. “Yes, we screwed up.” “Yes, we cut corners and we’re paying the price.” Unless your mistake is atrocious, it seems to me most people are willing to forgive if you’re willing to apologize legitimately.
The problem is too many executives and their lawyers, who too often can’t relate to the average Joe anyway, can’t see beyond the dollars signs. And while they try to limit the damage, they only cause more. I guess if ethics and doing the right thing were truly an option for some of those in corner officers, they probably wouldn’t find themselves in a mess to begin with. The question for us: To what extent will communicators allow themselves to be an accomplice and look people in the eyes knowing the truth is somewhere else? How much of the BS will you allow yourself to spill, whether into the media or the Gulf of Mexico?