Ensure the Truth is Out There

03/01/2014

In these days of 24-hour news and electronic media, a false rumour can trigger a full-blown reputational crisis. If that ever happens to you, never let something unfair or inaccurate pass unchallenged.

Journalists often ask questions from a particular standpoint, making an assumption which simply isn’t true. Why is your service so poor, are you going to apologise, what are you going to do to ensure this doesn’t happen again? And so on.

Answering such questions directly suggests that you accept the point they are making. If you know that the reality is different, it’s always good to stand your ground and counter the implication. Phrases like “That’s simply not the case”, “I don’t recognise the picture you’re painting” or “You’re not asking the right question” are all useful in this regard.

Also beware of having the wrong words put into your mouth. Take this example:

Reporter: “Do you accept that this is a white elephant?” You: “No”. The exchange may well appear in print as: “He denied it was a white elephant”.

Much better to go on the front foot and attack the phrase itself: “That’s a ridiculous suggestion, and it’s completely wrong to make it, because…”

This approach is equally important on social media or news websites, where people may be making negative comments based on false information. A measured response clearly explaining the true picture can be highly effective. You may not stop the negativity completely, but you can change the direction of the conversation.

Of course, such tactics require confidence and a cool head. You have to get the tone and language right, you must keep your temper and above all, you should always concentrate on the facts. The truth can only be heard if someone is saying it.