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Offense better than defense in PR crisis


Many corporate crises stem from attacks in the news media on the reputation of the corporation or its top officials or its services and products. The attacks could come from competitors, the media, the labor union, or government agencies.

When this happens, some corporate leaders lamely respond to the attack, just stay silent and hope it goes away, or surrender to the pressure.

Unfortunately, the news media is primarily driven by allegations. The people who accuse or raise damaging issues against a corporate entity shape the news coverage. A straight news story, though written supposedly in an “objective” manner, is usually biased favoring the allegation.

Note that many news leads or the first paragraph of a news item are usually about an allegation then alludes to the other side somewhere down the story. Worse, “the other side” sometimes merely says you could not be contacted for comment as of press time in an attempt to make a news story look objective.

Often, when a reporter calls for your comment on an allegation, the story is already written and he just wants to complete it with your side on it.

Newspaper readers often readily accept the allegation as the truth and deem “the other side” as mere excuses unless the one reading is the accused or knows the real truth.

One might decide not to respond in the hope that the media coverage on the allegations would go away.

When the attack is isolated and buried deep in the papers, this might be the right thing to do.

But often, controversial issues raised against a corporation get follow up stories and later comments by columnists and radio commentators. And we are conditioned to believe that innocent people don’t run and hide from problems.

Thus, hesitation or a “no comment” would raise suspicion. Silence, in the minds of many, is guilt. A lame reply to a baseless attack makes news readers doubt the confidence of the accused in his own innocence.

But waging a vigorous defense unfortunately entails more resources and far less efficient than going into the offensive. Soldiers exert more effort digging trenches, barricades and barbwires than crawling near and tossing a grenade into an enemy machine gun nest.

By going into the offensive, one forces his adversaries to stop or take a step backward to assess what happened and take defensive measures. They should also realize that you are not a pushover and they picked on the wrong guy. Their media campaign won’t be a walk in the park.


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One Response

  1. anol says:

    This should also apply to Cebu City officials who are losing in their defensive stance vis-a-vis the Capitol offensive against the City Hall-Filinvest deal.

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