What PR consultants should advise during super-injunction drama
The greatest damage to a reputation is not the crisis itself, but how you deal with it.
That’s one of the first lessons I teach my clients when we undertake messaging seminars, communications strategy and media training.
If something goes wrong, you can bet that someone will find out about it and you have to be prepared to answer the difficult questions.
Fronting up, accepting your mistake and trying to rectify it is the best way to limit damage.
'No comment' or hiding behind lawyers rarely works out in the end.
When a company has a problem with their services or products, or when a famous person is accused of having an extra-marital affair, of course they would prefer it not to come into the public domain.
In the latter case, there is an argument that it should be a private matter between the individuals involved.
However, if one of those parties decides to divulge the details for whatever reason, and the matter does not compromise health or national security, there is just as much of an argument for the media to report it.
If the footballer at the centre of the superinjunction recently had let the kiss-and-tell story come out, it would have made news for a day or two and a vast number of the population wouldn’t even have noticed it.
The fact is, though, that superinjunctions are seen as a way for the rich and famous to hide the truth when it suits them in a way not available to the average man on the street.
Of course, in the case of this particular footballer, the image of being a gentleman and a family man has been tarnished and that may or may not have an impact on his commercial standing during the rest of his career, however long left he has.
But beyond the superinjucntion, by taking the advice of his legal counsel to sue Twitter, even if it is beyond the jurisdiction of the courts in the UK, the story went from a salacious piece of gossip to a global story.
Why else would the likes of global publication Forbes run the story on their front page when the player’s identity was made public yesterday?
The issue of freedom of speech, the separation of powers between the legislature, executive and judiciary has rarely been called into question so vigorously in recent years.
No wonder Prime Minister David Cameron has vowed to look at the law, even if the judges have probably applied it accurately by deeming the story to have no genuine public interest.
A democracy relies on equality and the more ways the rich can exert more control and power than Joe Average, the more contempt there will be for laws that seem out of touch with public will.
As I said earlier, where health or security is concerned, there are very clearly cases for maintaining secrecy but in other cases, where reputation is the main driver for secrecy, there can be no defence.
Think about it.
Would you have more respect for someone who does something wrong and then denies it or someone who admits their error and vows to make amends?
Honesty is the best policy and the companies who have been perceived not to have been straight with the public in the past when crisis looms are the ones who have generally found their reputations sullied beyond complete repair.