When honesty is the best policy

Written by Jim Walsh

Walsh:PR has a policy that if something goes wrong that will impact on a client or a colleague, then we must inform them as soon as possible. But not only do we inform them of the error or problem, we also tell them what we’ve done to rectify the issue or offer a solution.

We were on the receiving end of a company with the same ethos recently when a supplier had an issue that impacted on us. We were organising a major event when a technical issue arose. It wasn’t sufficient to stop or interrupt the event, but it was annoying.

The morning after the event, first thing, there was an email from the MD of the company apologising for the problem. He explained what had happened and the steps the crew had taken to rectify it. He also pointed out that in 30 years of our business relationship nothing had ever gone wrong before and offered compensation.

A perfect example of what I hope we would do if the roles were reversed.

Honesty in providing full information in issue management can often diffuse a situation. One of the tenets of good communications in dealing with an issue or crisis is to provide full information as quickly as possible. When the proverbial  **** hits the fan, the worst thing you can do in seeking to protect your reputation is to issue some bland statement which actually raises more questions and damages your credibility.

There are many examples in crisis management of that happening. In the past few weeks in Ireland we have seen such a scenario unfold. Our Football Association, the FAI, became embroiled in the FIFA scandal about two weeks ago. First the FAI chief executive (despite calling for transparency within FIFA) refused to comment on reports that they had been paid €5m by FIFA after Ireland’s exit from the World Cup qualifying rounds in 2009.

Having initially refused to comment the FAI issued a statement after a few days admitting that the money had been paid. But it took another week before a more detailed explanation was provided. I suspect this story, which has already impacted badly on the reputation of the FAI will continue to run.

Many politicians have found themselves in the same situation trying to be clever by only providing the minimum information on a controversial issue. “You didn’t ask the right question” is a common response from those who finally have to reveal the full details.

Honour may have been the driver for honesty in Shakespeare’s time. Today it is fundamental to integrity and reputation. Whether in business, politics or sport

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