Q: I'm the spokesperson for a medium-sized tech company. I keep
getting calls from journalists who tell me that they've heard rumors
we're heading for bankruptcy. Meanwhile, my managers tell me that we
have financial troubles but they want me to stonewall the press for a
week. I really don't want to lie to these journalists, as I'm sure I'll
be dealing with them again. What should I do?
Mr. P, Sacramento, CA
A: You shouldn't be put in the position where you have to lie, that's
for sure. But the problem is that your managers obviously need more time
to sort themselves out and prepare their case to the outside world.
Your role is to buy them this much-needed time without necessarily
misrepresenting the situation to the media. So propose to your managers
that they schedule a time to talk to journalists and fill them in on
what's going on. If they're reluctant to do this, you must point out
that the rumors are already 'out there' and must be addressed. Assuming
your boss is at least slightly media-savvy, he or she will understand
this. Also bear in mind that Regulation FD requirements mean that if you
are releasing price sensitive information to the media you mustn't
selectively release it (so don't try to buy favors by promising
This will give your managers a concrete deadline to focus on, and will
keep the media wolf from your door for the moment, giving you time to
help your managers craft their statement. But make sure that they stick
to the date you set - the last thing you want is for the media to feel
like they're being manipulated.
Q: I'm an assistant account executive and my work often consists of
updating media lists and other routine tasks. I see layoffs happening
all around me and since my work doesn't allow me to show what I can do,
I'm worried I'll be fired in the next round. I've asked for more
responsibility, but it never seems to happen. What should I do?
Ms. N, New Orleans
A: It may not feel like it, but you're actually in a pretty good
I'm assuming your salary is fairly meager, right? So your agency won't
gain that much by laying you off - it's the expensive people that will
be first in line for the pink slips.
However, you are right to think that now is the time to start proving
your worth. If there have been layoffs, then presumably your co-workers
are all working hard to paper over the cracks. So make yourself popular
by helping them out.
Do a bit of homework on the accounts that your team is working on, and
start coming up with some ideas. Think a little smarter about those
media lists you have been beavering away on.
There's probably been a lot of movements amongst the journalists too, so
make it your business to let your account director know straightaway if
you notice that one of their prime contacts has moved on.
Now is also the time to make sure that the clients know who you are, and
how helpful you can be. Take advantage of any opportunity to call him or
Keep your ears open, work out what the ADs' priorities are in any given
week and find ways that you can help lessen their load. Showing your
keen side and making yourself indispensable is the fastest way to
increase your layoff-proofing.
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