Luke Blair: Honesty is still the best policy

None of us likes to think, as professional communicators, that we would lie as part of our job. So it is kind of shocking to be on the receiving end of a fellow practitioner who does, especially when they work for a public body.

Luke Blair: dealing with liars
Luke Blair: dealing with liars

Of course I can’t say which public body, due to client confidences, so apologies for that. But I do feel angry enough to write about it and I’ll try and draw out some useful points.

The situation, broadly, is that my client and said public body are in dispute.  Each side is blaming the other for problems experienced on the ground, which are having a considerable knock-on effect in terms of overall delivery.

Relations have deteriorated to such an extent that we on our side and the public body on theirs are engaged in a classic ‘war of words’, fought out to some extent in the media.

On our part, we have been positively religious in our fervour to be whiter than white, argue and persuade all we can using the facts, but staying well clear of any kind of distortion, or worse.

Imagine my anger then when I found myself this week reading a story, deliberately briefed in by the aforementioned public organisation, which simply took the facts, ignored them, and said that precisely the opposite was the case – in other words, a bare-faced lie.

Apart from calling up the journalist who received this briefing and pointing out that the refusal to check, let alone report, both sides makes them pretty unprofessional on their part, there are a few other things one can do. 

1)    Seek a meeting with the editor – with or without the journalist in question, depending on your relationship with them – to ‘clear the air’;

2)    Talk to third party stakeholders close and important to your client to make sure they know what is going on and are aware how the other side is behaving;

3)    Start compiling a dossier of evidence, in readiness for a possible complaint to the Press Complaints Commission.

In the end, though, there is really only one thing to do in this situation: simply tell the truth.  Funny, but it always comes out on top in the end.

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