Friday, October 17, 2008

Honesty is the Best Policy

Every other month or so, I present a "Mastering the Media" course to CEO's who belong to a terrific organization called Vistage.

When I speak to one of these think-tanks, at least one of the business owners has trouble with my advice to be honest with the news media. He or she insists that honesty could lead to lawsuits. But here's the rationale: I'm telling you to not lie, to not deceive, to not be deceptive. Lies and dishonesty come back to haunt news makers. Think of several high-profile celebrities and politicians, who, if they had told the truth in the first place, may not have been in such hot water. They may still have been impeached, lost their office, lost the lawsuit or gone to federal prison, but the court of public opinion might have prevailed.

In more explicit terms, you can be honest by saying something that is not saying anything at all. You never want to say, "No comment." But you can say something to that effect without lying. For instance, you could say, "I would love to tell my side of the story. But right now, my lawyers are asking me to refrain from doing so." The news media is happy--reporters have a soundbite-- your attorneys are satisfied, and you haven't told a whopper.

Honesty is the best policy.

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