mercoledì 14 agosto 2013

Gestione delle critiche, quando si ha torto

Silence is Golden; Duct Tape is Silver
July 08, 2013

One of the most natural of all human instincts is to defend oneself. Someone attacks you physically or verbally and we go into the mode where logic steps aside and baser instincts take over.

It comes as no surprise in the practice of ‘crisis communications’ that one of the most challenging tasks I and other ‘handlers’ have is to get our clients to shut up.
So many celebrities have gotten famous and beloved by virtue of their glibness, charm and general appeal to the public. So it’s natural that when the chips are down they want to use those same skills that got them there in the first place to get beyond a problem.

It’s my job to tell them to apologize once, if appropriate, or just shut-up.

I believe there are three parts to a successful recovery from an untoward or embarrassing moment:
  • A single, sincere and complete apology
  • Making things right with the aggrieved party or group
  • Time. Except for O.J. Simpson and Bernie Madoff, almost everyone is capable of being redeemed in the publics’ eyes.

Martha Stewart, Tiger Woods, and Michael Vick have all managed successful comebacks. And a significant part of their comebacks, and the publics’ ability to forgive them, was time away from the media spotlight, whether by choice or incarceration.

With this in mind, I can’t for the life of me figure out what British businessman and art collector Charles Saatchi thinks he is accomplishing with his ill advised, ill timed and difficult to believe pronouncements.

The strange tale began last month when Saatchi and his wife, television chef Nigella Lawson, got into a tiff outside a London restaurant. Uncomfortable photos appeared in the British tabloids initially and then circulated around the world of Saatchi apparently choking his wife. The photographer who took the shots claimed the incident lasted 27 minutes.

Saatchi was given a “caution” for assault by law enforcement, after allegedly admitting the incident. He then characterized it as a “tiff.” Soon after the initial incident Lawson moved out of their home and via a spokesman chose not to comment on the situation. She still has not commented to this day.

A couple of weeks after that, Saatchi, in an effort to defend his actions, made the bizarre pronouncement, "Even domestic goddesses sometimes have a bit of snot in their nose. I was trying to fish it out.”

In the latest twist, Saatchi gave an exclusive interview to a British newspaper where he announced he is divorcing Lawson because she did not publicly defend his reputation, which, not surprisingly, was going downhill very quickly.

He also contradicted his reported statements to the police by saying he had, “never abused her physically in any way.” Lawson, who reportedly heard about the divorce from the media at the same time as the rest of the world, chose to continue her silence on the subject.

So what did Saatchi do wrong?

First, he refused to publicly acknowledge his part in the incident. Next, he gave contradictory and incredulous explanations for the assault. He not only refused to take responsibility, he blamed his wife for her lack of support as the reason for his divorce.

Finally, he didn’t shut up. His continued engagement of the media has made him look violent and ridiculous. He has dug himself a hole that even with his hundreds of millions of dollars, he will probably never get himself out of.

To her credit, Lawson and her team took the high road, went on with her personal and professional life and will likely not be defined nor tarnished by this incident.

Ms. Lawson is a role model of dignity and composure during an obviously difficult time in her life. And no matter how great the temptation to lash back at someone who clearly did her wrong, she maintained both her composure and her silence. There’s a word for that. It’s called “class.”

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