Every so often events come along that make those of us who make a living predicting, analyzing, and helping others determine how to learn from similar lessons, take notice. Here's a review of three recent events and the conflicting conventional wisdom they support:
- Tiger Woods: Act quickly to frame the story
This strategy is often the most difficult to grasp in the moment, particularly when dealing with a highly personal and embarrassing problem. But speaking quickly allows you to better frame the discussion, before the narrative is too far gone and largely unchangeable. Tiger's delayed disclosure cost him credibility and empowered others to structure this entire event on their terms, without any context from Tiger himself. Tiger speaks publicly for the first time this Friday. Too little too late? Probably, but Americans still love apologies and redemption.
- Toyota: Know all the facts before you respond
Toyota's recall of the Prius and other cars is an example of the consequences of employing the drip philosophy of crisis management. Speculation was rampant, but the company was reluctant to initiate the recall. The public alleges Toyota moved too slowly, as they had in earlier recalls. Now they face reputation and financial damage, and government and regulatory intrusion in their business. Could the magnitude of the reputation problem have been mitigated?
- David Paterson: Acting too quickly can harm you
The New York Times has been alluding to a potential story on about New York governor, David Paterson's personal life for weeks. The speculation included reports that Paterson's resignation was in the works. Late last week, in an attempt to preempt the Times, Gov. Paterson tried to regain ownership of the narrative. By engaging a reporter (not from the Times) in a dialogue about the scandal, Paterson created more interest and intrigue.
Torod Neptune is SVP and global public affairs practice leader at Waggener Edstrom