Have you ever heard that PR professionals are spin doctors for a living? As a PR major, I have been exposed to the misconceptions created by individuals who have given PR a bad reputation, and I am here to tell you today that those misconceptions can be prevented.
We have all been told that lying is bad, and the truth comes out eventually. Once the truth is out, there really is no going back, and the perceptions people have of you are changed (not for the better, usually). In the corporate world, sometimes there are situations, in which a crisis occurs, that puts an organization in a bad light. They could be at fault for a tragedy or trying to cover up a scandal.
“It’s never the crime that gets you into hot water – it’s always the cover up,” says Jim Joseph, contributor for Entrepreneur.com in an article about the Ryan Lochte scandal. Whether a crime was committed or not was not the issue, but rather the story that was told to try and cover up what actually happened. The story and the facts did not align, and his reputation was essentially ruined because of it. Once again the truth came out, and being honest in the beginning would have prevented an even bigger mess, which was actually created.
As a society, we are fairly forgiving about scandals, with the passing of some time. We tend to realize that people make mistakes and can see when a genuine apology is given. However, we do not accept lying and blame as easily. Taking responsibility for an act is much more respected than trying to avoid consequences.
In business, there will be people that try to cover things up, and then those who want to do the right thing. PR professionals must learn that doing the right thing and taking responsibility as a corporation for a publicly unfavorable decision will prove to be the best strategy in the long run. Reputations will be hurt, but not destroyed; the rebuilding of an entire brand is much harder than doing some patch work.