Why You Should Never Lie to the Media
It’s time for a lesson in honesty. Technically, honesty should be a character trait that is embedded in us as children, but when it comes to politicians, we apparently need to bring out the case book and show them why lying to the public will always work against them.
Former Democratic Vice Presidential candidate John Edwards is a perfect example of what can go wrong when you try to lie to the media. For those living in a cave, Edwards admitted he had an affair while his wife battled cancer. It’s one thing to have an affair, but cheating on your wife while she is battling such a horrible disease is outright selfish. And after Edwards got caught with his pants down, his response made him sound even more like an egomaniac.
“In the course of several campaigns, I started to believe that I was special and became increasingly egocentric and narcissistic,” Edwards said in a statement.
His television response on ABC’s Nightline wasn’t much better.
“I went from being a senator, a young senator, to being considered for vice president, running for president, being a vice presidential candidate and becoming a national public figure,” Edwards said on national television.
Who coached this guy in crisis management? Of course, no politician should need a lesson in honesty, but Edwards could have improved his crisis situation in several ways. Here are a few lessons you can apply to your own situation should you ever find yourself in a similar situation.
Number 1: Don’t ever try to lie your way out of a crisis situation. You only have one thing in this world and that is your credibility. If you lose that credibility with a reporter -or worse the public- you probably won’t gain it back. And once your lie is uncovered, you can bet it will have a dominant place in the story.
Journalists are schooled in uncovering the truth, and the more experienced the reporter, the greater the odds that your lie will be revealed. Instead of trying to deceive the reporter on the crisis situation, make an effort to resolve it. If you have a manager who took advantage of a customer, hold that manager accountable by firing or suspending him. Then communicate to the reporter how you held the acting agent accountable. You should also explain why the problem was solved so the odds of it happening again are slim.
I don’t want to judge any politician because I am also human. I know that people make mistakes in life, and as long as man continues on earth, he will continue to have regrets. But I am also not running for President of the United States on a platform of honesty, integrity and values, like John Edwards did. I also didn’t lambast President Clinton when reporters uncovered Monica Lewinsky’s blue, semen-stained dress, like Edwards did to the national press.
“I think this President has shown a remarkable disrespect for his office, for the moral dimensions of leadership, for his friends, for his wife, for his precious daughter. It is breathtaking to me the level to which that disrespect has risen,” Edwards said back in 1999.
Edwards encouraged people to believe in him when he ran for President, and most people did. He came in second place in the crucial 2008 Iowa primary. Not bad for a guy who claimed he was the son of a factory worker. But he lost it all in less than a month of negative publicity.
So if your business or image finds itself in the middle of a scandal, think twice before you deny the truth. Morality might not matter as much in your business –like it does in politics – but honesty does. No client or customer wants to work with someone who can’t be trusted. If you find yourself in a compromising decision, don’t be afraid to admit the error of your ways. You are human after all and fault is accepted, as long as you are truthful enough to admit it.