Chasing the Truth

Erik Bernstein crisis communications, crisis management, Crisis Prevention, Erik Bernstein, ethics, fact checking, Jonathan Bernstein, PR, public relations, reputation management Leave a Comment

Check your facts, or it’s bound to be crisis management time

One of the most important, and often overlooked, building blocks of credibility is making sure you have the facts straight. It’s pretty simple – if you earn a reputation for dishonesty and/or inaccuracy,  then nobody is going to believe what you say.

Whether you are for or against something, supporting your statements and claims with unsubstantiated or downright untrue “facts” all but ensures a loss of reputation, and stacks the deck against you in the court of public opinion.


Of course, politicians are famous for using iffy figures in their speeches, but as Republican Michele Bachmann found out following her speech at the recent Conservative Political Action Conference, the media is more eager than ever to spot murky statements and turn them into stories.

Bachmann made the mistake of pulling information from a book of questionable merit when she bashed White House spending in her speech, and it turned into a field day for CNN’s Anderson Cooper as he gleefully tore through a nearly ten-minute segment on the Minnesota rep. Fast forward to the 6:00 mark to watch Bachmann all but run from reporter Dana Bash while deflecting questions and furiously attempting to change the subject.

[Editor’s note: At the time of this writing CNN had not enabled embedding on the clip, we will edit it in once we are able. For now, please use the link above.]

While one has to stop and admire Bachmann’s commitment to staying on message, the CNN reporter did a devastatingly good job of making the Congresswoman look foolish by repeatedly pointing out that Bachmann had introduced the very issue that she was now attempting to push aside.

Protect your reputation

Protecting your reputation is the number one goal of crisis management, but how can you have a strong reputation if you’ve proven that your credibility is nil?

The answer is, you can’t.

Especially in today’s environment, where so much of our information comes from not-so-official sources, you MUST make sure that “facts” are actually, well, facts. Check and double check sources, and if it’s pointed out that you were wrong, then have the good grace to admit your mistake. Whatever you do, don’t quote weak or questionable sources, and don’t just make things up. People are going to figure it out, and when they do it WILL come back to bite you in the rear.

The BCM Blogging Team

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