How many times have you heard people say: “There’s no such thing as bad publicity”? Oh yeah. Ask Bernie Madoff about that. Or O.J. Simpson. Or Jim Cramer.

How do you think they feel about their bad publicity? Have I made my point?

Bad publicity is bad…period. It’s nothing you want.

But odds are you may come across some bad publicity somewhere in your life, especially if you own a business.

So how do you handle it?

Let’s talk about O.J. Simpson first. Why do you think he was found not guilty of murdering two people when all the evidence pointed right to him? Was it because justice prevailed? Yeah, right. Keep believing in Tinkerbell, Scooter.

O.J. Simpson was found not guilty of murdering two people, at least in part, because, he had piled up so much positive publicity in the years before the murders that people couldn’t believe he did it.

Not O.J. Not The Juice. Not the guy I saw flying across the football field and leaping over the ropes in the Avis commercials.

Not Saint O.J!

Then what happened to his image after that verdict? Talk about bad publicity. I’d hate to think that there are millions of people sinking back in their easy chairs with their feet up and a smile on their faces, knowing that The Juice is now behind bars.

Now let’s take a look at the latest victim of bad publicity – Jim Cramer.

You’re probably familiar with the brawl Jim Cramer and Jon Stewart got into over Cramer’s recommendations of Bear Stearns. Cramer could have turned that situation around so easily and in the process looked like a saint. But nooooo. He had to do what 99.9% of people do in his situation. He’d didn’t fess up and tell the truth.

Even in the face of Stewart showing clip after clip of Cramer blatantly recommending Bear Stearns and voicing his undying support, Cramer tried to defend the indefensible.

Schmuck!

If you know Cramer and he needs good PR advice, have him call me.

Now picture this – Jon Stewart calls Cramer out on Bear Stearns. Cramer calls Stewart and asks to be on his show to give his side. Stewart would have jumped at the opportunity.

Then, the night of Stewart’s show Cramer starts out by saying: “What was I thinking about, recommending Bear Stearns over and over for weeks? That had to be the worst call I ever made. Now, Jon, if you’d permit me, I’d like to point out where I, and so many other finacial advisors, went wrong so that your viewers don’t go through this again. Then, to balance things out, I’d like to go over some of my big successes and show people how to do the same thing.”

How do you think Cramer would have looked then?

Once again, have I made my point?

I remember hearing Ed Koch, former mayor of New York, being interviewed on radio after he left office. A listener called the radio show, furious at Koch for a law he pushed through. He was livid.

After the listener vented, Koch simply said: “I remember that well. Wasn’t that the dumbest thing I ever did as mayor? I don’t know what I was thinking.”

Crisis immediately defused.

The lesson here – gather as much positive publicity as you can now, before anything negative happens. Then, when the inevitable happens and some bad publicity comes your way and you know you’re responsible for whatever you’re being blamed for, come clean. Yes you might be embarrassed for a while. If you screwed up you probably deserve it. This too shall pass.

If you have some legal liability, obviously you should get appropriate legal advice. But if it was a simple screw up, admit it. You’ll look a whole lot better.

(Are you reading this Bill Clinton?)

I’ll have more to say about this later. Lucky you! Where would your life be if you didn’t have me to spout off about important things in your life?

You can thank me later…

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  1. The Public Speaking Training Expert, David Portney Says:

    Hey Paul, very good point you make here. And funny, as I was reading your post, I was thinking about Bill Clinton and how if he had just said “sure, I tried pot in college, hasn’t almost every kid experimented with something when they were young” that would have been MUCH more believable than “…uh, I didn’t inhale”. Image counts for much, no matter what the truth is.

    It’s been shown again and again that the person who says “the buck stops here” when they screw up can come out as strong or stronger.

    Now, Bernie Madoff – there’s no apology or any amount of “stepping up” that’s going to make people feel better about what he’s done wrong.

    Paul, do you think there’s any way Bernie could make good short of coming up with ALL of the money plus interest earned?

    Best,
    David Portney

  2. Signe A. Dayhoff, Ph.D. Says:

    Paul, I couldn’t agree more. When you’ve done something stupid, admit it. That immediately defuses the situation and leaves the critics no place to go. And there it dies. Besides it gives you eccentricity credits and gives you points for honesty.

    It reminds me when the American Bar Association Journal awarded former-Attorney General Alberto Gonzales the title of “Lawyer of the Year,” only to embarrass themselves and further reinforce the negative public perception of lawyers.

    While Edward A. Adams, editor and publisher of the magazine, saids they gave the award to lawyers who “made the most news,” “who are noteworthy,” most people likely nodded to themselves and muttered, “Yeah, sure. That figures!”

    After all, one usually expects that honors like “Lawyer of the Year” would go to those who have demonstrated the highest principles of law or made the greatest contribution to upholding justice. That turned out to be a big chuckle in this case. One was certainly hard pressed to think of Gonzales in those terms with his resignation and Congressional investigations.

    Even though publisher Adams said that the persons picked “do not necessarily reflect the official policy of the ABA,” (?) and some 40,000 lawyers in the U.S., one had to wonder if their awards’ committee’s social awareness and marketing savvy were out-to-lunch when they appeared to positively sanction the tainted Gonzales and his questionable official actions.

    Talk about bad PR.

  3. Henry Says:

    Ed Koch is a Mench (yiddish word meaning well intentioned, thought out person).

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