With Weinergate in full swing and ‘The Sperminator’ and Strauss-Kahn incidents just barely in the rearview mirror, a lot has been said about the various scandals in the news of late (weirdly, all by powerful men making sexual slip-ups) — and the impact of said debacles on a person’s reputation. But as PR experts, we’ll address the most recent situation with NY Congressman Anthony Weiner, who late last week was accused of having sent lewd photos of himself to unsuspecting young women on Twitter. He responded by inviting reporters in to interview him about the scandal and then giving cryptic, defensive answers to simple questions about whether, in fact, he had done the deed and whether it was his, ahem, wiener featured in the offending pics.
After denying, deferring and dismissing these accusations, Weiner finally admitted today in a press conference that he had sent photos of his “member of Congress” to several women through Twitter and Facebook and had previously lied about the situation. In our book, Be Your Own Best Publicist, we spend an entire chapter on crisis management and we thought we’d share some of that advice with Rep. Weiner and others who may find themselves in personal or professional pickles.
- Assess. In PR, when we encounter a crisis situation, the first thing we do is examine the potential damage and consider the best course of action. Staying as calm and objective as possible will help you see potential solutions.
- Admit. If the crisis involves lying, as Weiner’s did, you should fess up and admit your mistakes as quickly as possible. Honesty is always the best policy. It’s never good practice to lie — trust us, it will inevitably come back and bite you in the ass. And, in the age of YouTube and Twitter, your cover-up will replay over and over again, harming your reputation more than if you had just told the truth.
- Address. When you do apologize, it’s best to explain why you’re sorry about what you did and, if appropriate, the reasons behind your behavior or actions. Show true remorse for your error in judgment. No fake tears (Do you hear us, Congressman Weiner?), no robotically reading off a prepared statement (Hello, Tiger Woods!).
- Atone. Try to clean up your mess by righting the wrong as much as you can. Make sure you make it up to the people you’ve hurt (especially if they include your wife). While you can’t reverse the past, you can attempt to have an honorable future.
- Adapt. A scandal may interfere with your life in lots of ways. It may destroy your family or ruin your career. Either way, you need a game plan for how you’re going to adapt to your circumstances and their effect on your future. Maybe you won’t be the next Mayor of New York City but as we happen to live in a culture of forgiveness, it is possible to make grave mistakes and come back from them (Martha Stewart, anyone?).
Bottom line: The best way to deal with a crisis and do damage control is to face it head on and come clean. Not a lot of people like a cheater — but no one likes a bold-faced liar. We all make mistakes but admitting to them is the first step in repairing a tarnished reputation.