29 Mar

Celebrity Scandals Provide Media Relations Tips for Top Leaders

Over the past few
months so many celebrities got caught in the spotlight over sex scandals. But
when such news surfaces in the media I think it is interesting to observe how
celebrities address the poor behavior in an attempt to salvage their images and
reputations. These types of crises can also happen in large organizations. When
they do, top leaders have to decide how they are going to react and communicate
with the media to preserve the reputation of the organization.

In October, David
Letterman came forward to quickly address the media on his late night show and
describe an extortion plot against him that was based on allegations that he
had a sexual relationship with a female employee. The media broke the news in
November that Tiger Woods had been philandering with multiple women after he
was involved in a mysterious car accident outside his home. But in that
instance Tiger waited three months before talking about the scandal in public.  

So what can a top
leader learn from these two men about what to do if this type of a crisis hits
and their reputation and image – and that of their organization – is suddenly
at stake?

Top leaders are seen
as role models within their organization. They or someone else in the organization
can make a big mistake – but as leaders they or someone on their top staff must
address the media in a proactive fashion. Otherwise personal and professional
brands and images are threatened and can be easily damaged or destroyed.

I acknowledge that
there are millions of different viewpoints about how David and Tiger handled
their personal situations and private matters. But what I want to highlight are
some valuable professional tips for top leaders who face these kinds of
unexpected situations and then have to step out and face the cameras.

  1. Don’t Avoid the Confrontation – People hate embarrassing moments and
    confrontation, and many times they think the situation will die down and go
    away if they just ignore it. That “ostrich with its head in the sand” plan just
    doesn’t work, especially in this media-driven era. Especially when celebrities
    or powerfully branded organizations like Toyota make mistakes, people want to
    know the truth. When leaders don’t come forward to talk about the facts, the
    public and the media draw their own conclusions – and those are usually much
    more sensational and damaging. We all know how the media can distort facts and
    how that can do significant harm to an individual or organization.
  2. Do the Right Thing – Every organization needs to have a crisis
    management plan in place ahead of time and decide prior to the crisis who is
    the best person to address the media. This top person needs to accept
    responsibility for the inappropriate action or behavior, apologize, and express
    concern for those who have been hurt. Tell the facts quickly and let people
    know what you plan to do to change your behavior or otherwise rectify the
    situation.
  3.  A Scripted but Heartfelt Expression of
    Emotion
    – In Tiger’s media
    appearance I did like that he had a scripted message to keep him focused on
    what he needed to say. But I believe that his monotone voice and reading of the
    script lacked real emotion. In a situation where you have hurt people you need
    to show real emotion through your body language and your tone of voice. If your
    physical presence, body language, and voice are not all congruent, people will perceive
    mixed messages and question your authenticity.
  4. Get Back To Business – After you have promptly addressed the
    media it is time to get back to business. Individuals or organizations make
    mistakes, but it’s how they handle the situation and react afterward that can
    keep a personal and corporate brand intact. When you can admit wrongdoing to
    millions of people – and it shows in how you speak and behave under pressure –
    the public is more inclined to respect and forgive you and let you get back to
    work.

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Sarah Hathorn is a professional image
consultant, certified personal brand strategist, speaker, and author.

Her company, Illustra Image Consulting, works
with high-achieving future leaders and large businesses by enhancing their
corporate and personal brand image to take their businesses and careers to the
next level.

Blog, Ezine & Website:
www.illustraimageconsulting.com

Copyright 2010, Sarah Hathorn, AICI CIP, CPBS

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Sarah Hathorn
Sarah Hathorn, CEO of Hathorn Consulting Group, is the go-to-expert in working with leaders and companies to create successful corporate DNA. As an executive coach, consultant and speaker she collaborates globally with clients and brands such as Kimberly-Clark, Sherwin-Williams, Home Depot and other leading organizations.
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