There is always that one time when a crisis emerges. Someone messes up down the line that comes back to be a major pain to those ultimately responsible. Sometimes, we are the ones who mess up. This has been a serious problem for businesses, campaigns, and brands alike. There are a few steps that we can take and a few lessons we can learn from those who did it right and from those who didn’t.
Melania Trump delivered a speech at the Republican National Convention. It was about 15 minutes long. In it she laid out what she felt about a Donald Trump presidency and leadership, what she would do if honoured to be first lady, and what she believes the world needs now; and it wasn’t ‘love sweet love,’ but leadership, integrity, etc. The basic tenets you’d expect from a spousal endorsement.
All in all, it was a good speech. However, what the world remembers about the speech is the unfortunate two to three minutes near the beginning of her speech, where it mirrored the words of Michelle Obama in 2008 and the Democratic National Convention.
What can we learn from situations like these?
Proof it yourself.
I’ll say right off the bat, that it’s not always possible to write your content yourself, but if you have a team of writers at least fact-check it yourself. The buck stops at you. It will put egg on your face when the unthinkable happens and your name is besmirched by allegations. And not all of us have the privilege of news media that will highlight it today and forget it tomorrow. Sometimes it sticks and ruins career paths and reputations for life. If you get up there and say it, post it, print it, or present it, you are endorsing the methods used to get it there in the first place. Even if you are claiming plausible deniability, your credibility will be called into question.
People mostly remember the bad stuff.
About 12 minutes of this speech have gone completely unnoticed. Some have not focused on the fact that she is a mother, wife, and successful businesswoman; at least those who tune into liberal-leaning news media regularly.
In the 24-hour news cycle that exists today and with the prevalence of social media, every slip-up you make can go viral instantly. And that is exactly what happened in this instance. By the next morning, CNN had a side-by-side comparison of the area of the two speeches called into question. From individuals to local insurance companies to the Huffington Post, image macros, otherwise known as memes, continue to proliferate on social media, making fun of Melania Trump and highlighting the very thing the campaign wanted to ignore.
Don’t make the problem worse.
The Trump campaign did exactly that when for nearly two solid days they didn’t even acknowledge that anything had happened; some unaffiliated campaign supporters even tried to blame Hilary Clinton. Lest we forget, this is NOT a political post or a political blog.
Simply put, when you deny what is blatantly obvious it makes people think that you don’t value their intelligence. Admitting our faults is kind of counterintuitive to most but it is key to integrity. It lets people see you are human, have flaws and you are willing to work on them. It keeps you humble, and when you do make a mistake or a misstep, people are more likely to forgive you, rather than skewer you time after time.
Make it right.
That’s exactly what Steve Harvey did. When the dust from Miss Universe cleared last December, it was evident that a melee had ensued. But Steve Harvey didn’t miss a beat. The same night that he announced and crowned the wrong woman as Miss Universe, he went about to make amends immediately. When he noticed there was a problem he accepted full responsibility without flinching.
In what must have been a gut-wrenching moment he carefully walked back out on stage, apologised, and made no excuses, rather took responsibility for the error.
“OK folks … I have to apologize,” he told a confused crowd in Las Vegas. (sic)
“Let me just take control of this. This is exactly what’s on the card. I will take responsibility for this. It was my mistake. It was on the card.” Backstage he apologised to Miss Philippines and later took to Twitter to publicly apologise, again.
Further, when asked on his morning radio show if it was a publicity stunt, he vehemently denied that but said again, “Did I make a mistake? Yes, I did. Wholeheartedly. At this point in the game, I’m not in the finger-pointing business and rolling other people under the bus.”
And still, he invited Miss Colombia to his show and apologized to her in person on his show.
Your message can be obscured by one mistake, or misstep, by one error that shifts the focus from what your express intent was. You can embarrass yourself, or your brand in a way you never thought possible. That’s not fine but it happens. But what you do about it in the moments to follow is just as critical. That’s what some call public relations, others call good common sense, and to use a little bajan parlance, others may say it is, ‘broughtupsy.’ (Having a good upbringing.)
Rather than denying that any wrong was done, own it. Steve Harvey showed that this is possible in today’s world. He was vilified, skewered, and made fun of on social media; he even received death threats. But at the same time, he took steps to correct it, and took responsibility rather than letting the chips fall where they may.
When bad things happen the only right move is to make the necessary corrective steps and admit to your flaws. It will set the stage for your future credibility and that of your brand.