Toronto Mayor Rob Ford got himself into hot water in November when he denied, denied, denied, then finally admitted that he was in fact using crack-cocaine in a publicly released video that showed him using drugs. I don’t need to go into the details of the story – you probably all saw the headlines, the video, the subsequent run-ins with media and the news conference… and the most recent development on Nov. 13.
As I was watching the story unfold over several weeks, I already mentally replaced “denied” with “lied.” Forget the illegal act associated with the situation. Proof was right there and caught on camera – the public isn’t blind – and yet, he lied about it. And while Ford may surprise everyone and win re-election based on his eventual confession (running on the ticket that he is only human, a great example for the “down and out” and inclined to making mistakes), his reputation is tarnished. I wouldn’t be surprised if he is not re-elected. He certainly may not keep his position much longer past the posting of this blog!
The best advice any PR professional (or otherwise trusted adviser) can offer to somebody in a position of leadership is this: always be transparent and truthful no matter the situation. If I sound like I’m repeating something you’ve already heard on this blog, it’s probably because we strongly believe in transparency and truthfulness for our clients and ourselves. Politicians, high-level executives, actors – all are caught in lies on a regular basis it seems. They deny (lie) when evidence is fairly damning against them, and the truth might have been better than the lie. I tell my kids this all the time. The punishment is always lighter if you tell the truth first rather than digging your hole deeper and deeper.
So, if you are in the unfortunate position of facing the choice to come clean or try to cover things up (especially if there’s evidence like the video in Ford’s situation), whatever you do, don’t deny (lie). You will be more likely to come out of a crisis of this nature – or any negative scenario – on a positive note if you are forthcoming and honest.