Get Your Story Straight

Erik Bernstein crisis communications, crisis management, Crisis Prevention, crisis public relations, Crisis Response, media training, online reputation management, public relations, reputation management Leave a Comment

Lying is a slippery slope

Massachusetts Lieutenant Governor Timothy Murray wrecked his state-owned Crown Victoria sedan on November 2nd.

Initially Murray said he was driving within the speed limit and wearing a seat belt when he hit some black ice.

According to the Boston Globe Murray said he was out surveying damage from a snow storm.  After someone noted that at 5:26 AM, the time of the crash, its kind of dark and not the best time for snow damage assessment — Murray’s story evolved.

He subsequently said he was looking for coffee and a newspaper, although the crash site was reportedly 18 miles from his home.  Then he said he couldn’t sleep and went for a spin to “clear his head.”

State Police speculated that he had fallen asleep at the wheel just prior to the vehicle hitting a rock ledge and twice rolling  over.  They said his car reached speeds estimated to be over 80 MPH.  The LT Gov said — yeah, maybe that’s it — although he couldn’t remember falling asleep.

If this sounds fishy, that’s probably because it is.

This story, recounted in a blog post, demonstrates the strange evolution that Governor Murray’s story has taken since his crash last week. Do we care about politics in Massachussets? Not particularly. We just couldn’t pass up the opportunity to bring you a classic “don’t do this” case study.

So, what does a car crash have to do with your business? Well, when you encounter a situation that obviously is going to require crisis management, whether it was (allegedly) driving a car like a madman in the middle of the night, or a supply line interruption that’s going to set your deliveries back a couple weeks, you want to get a response out as fast as possible. What you do not want to do, is make up the answer! Honesty and humility truly is the best policy. Of course you will get a few angry responses, but by and large you’ll be surprised as just how accepting your stakeholders can be.

If, as some are speculating may be the case in Gov. Murray’s situation, there are legal issues involved, then all you can say is, “I will be happy to discuss the situation as soon as I’m able to, and here is where the information will be posted/printed.” The last thing you want to do in a situation like that is raise suspicion, and a story that changes three or four times in a single week is bound to raise the blood lust in every reporter in the region.

Although we’ve largely deplored Gov. Murray’s crisis management, he did have one bright idea. Immediately after Massachusetts State Police arrived on the scene, the Governor demanded a sobriety test to prove the crash was not alcohol-related.

The BCM Blogging Team

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