When you knew you were in big trouble…

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By Consultant Ned Worledge 

When I was about 13, I tried to move my Mum’s car to the other side of the driveway, just a little bit, so I could set up my skateboard ramp on the nice, smooth bit of concrete.

I mean, it was only the width of the car one way, and really, I was actually thinking of the car because I didn’t want to hit and damage it.

Excuses aside, having never driven a car before, well, needless to say it didn’t end well.

Although I didn’t get to skate in the driveway (because I was sent to my room) I did learn a pretty valuable lesson.

I’d screwed up and I knew it, so I fessed up, told the whole story and dealt with the consequences.

I think in the end, Mum was more lenient on me for telling the truth and not throwing a sheet over the damage in a vain attempt get away with it. However I don’t think she ever told Dad (sorry Dad).

I’m sure most of us have a similar story to mine from our childhood, in fact I think my story is pretty similar one that was told in a TV ad for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and we all learn the same lesson.

But sometimes it seems the lessons we learn growing up, are forgotten when we reach adulthood, particularly in business life.

When it comes to crisis communications, what you don’t tell can hurt you.

John F. Kennedy said, “The great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie, deliberate, contrived and dishonest, but the myth, persistent, persuasive and unrealistic”.

Information left unconfirmed or unclarified becomes perception. Perception eventually becomes believed by the public and once a negative perception is believed, it is very hard to reverse.

Hiding information during a crisis will only come back to haunt you.

Even if the crisis you are dealing with is not, the rules with dealing with a crisis are fairly strait forward. Tell the truth, tell the whole story, tell it first and tell it as soon as you can.

Being open and honest allows you to control the myth and speculation. People simply cannot draw conclusions or make assumption if they are presented with the honest truth.

At a recent Public Relation Institute of Australia (PRIA) seminar, the presenter shared a few bits of wisdom on crisis communications. One thing in particular he said was “journalists yawn at what you reveal and thrive on what you conceal”. As a one-time journalist turned PR man, there is never a truer word spoken.

I’m not for a minute saying that unloading the whole story will get you off scot-free, but it may help you to get out of the news faster than if journalists keep uncovering information about you.

To come back to my long-winded anecdote, being open and transparent about when has happened is your best friend in a crisis. Don’t hide from the truth, use it to control what people are saying about you.

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