At the moment we seem to have an insatiable appetite for the bad guys – this often seems to start with the media, with us happily jumping on the bandwagon, lapping up all of the attention grabbing and often sensationalist headlines accepting all of what is being said without question.
Maybe all of these ‘shameful characters‘ are as guilty as they are portrayed and maybe they deserve all of those rotten tomatoes and for their reputations to be destroyed irrevocably.
However, maybe we don’t know the full stories and maybe just maybe the process of delivering those shocking, sensationalist headlines isn’t always that robust?
In the course of our Crisis Communications work we have seen 100% incorrect situations being portrayed by the media in a particular way, which would have Mr and Mrs Everybody unfairly believing the worst and as a result solid reputations are destroyed forever.
It can happen easier that you may think..
- someone with a gripe concocts a story about their target
- they start a disingeneous “legal process” against their target
- the legal documents get deliberately leaked to the media
- a “hungry for a great story” journalist gratefully accepts the gift and starts to write their sensational story
- the target is told there is a piece being written about them the next day including the detail from the legal document (bear in mind if you are explaining you are always losing) – any comment the journalist asks? – this is offering a right of reply (they did ask = technical fairness)
- the flustered target (often not used to dealing with the media) might say “no comment” (solicitors often give this normally suicidal advice) or they might in the best possible way try to give responses to the accusations
- the article appears in the newspaper complete with the sensationalist headline “Greg Canty (it could be you!) accused of embezzling funds“
- the radio stations pick up on the story and interview the person with the gripe who is more than happy to tell their story
- the target is called by the radio station for interview to rebutt the claims – once again, when you are explaining you are losing!
- the person with the gripe drops their legal process – it was never serious in the first place!
Question – what arresting officer in Rio would have taken the pic above of Pat Hickey of the Irish Olympic Council and tweet it? Why?
Mr and Mrs Everybody are shocked and horrified and they start tweeting about it, venting their anger and it goes on and on – the story gets bigger and bigger and then it grows arms and legs with further titbits being added as the hate momentum builds.
Maybe they did these terrible things but maybe they didn’t?
The next time we read these sensationalist headlines we should pause and carefully question everything we read before fully making up our minds about these “villains”.