Reputations – Correcting “Bad Press”

Have you ever experienced a situation where a colleague, former business associate, or whoever didn’t live up to his/her commitment, but when you hear the story from a third party you have become the perpetrator when you were actually the “victim”?  Well it is an all-too-frequent occurrence and one which seems to be an issue for many readers.

First, give yourself the opportunity to be justifiably indignant.  If you are very protective of your reputation and work hard to make sure you keep commitments, even if it means making personal sacrifices, then situations like this will hit you extremely hard.

What is the appropriate action to take?  Well it really depends upon the degree of the matter.  In the extreme, it may reach to levels of defamation, slander, and libel.  In the more day-to-day type issues, you will likely have to counteract it by continuing to conduct yourself to your own highest standards.

The reality is that people who truly know you won’t believe it.  Those who know the other person will consider the source.  Those who don’t know you may take it at face value or have a healthy skepticism.

Regardless of how others react, the only thing you can control is how you conduct yourself.  If you become aware of “bad press”, your focus should be on making sure that you don’t react or act in a way that confirms, escalates, or otherwise expands the problem.

If you are asked about the situation directly (and you should be so lucky), then keep the comments professional and focused on correcting the perception of you, not returning the favor on comments about the other person.  If you happen to be asked directly about the person with whom you have issues with a question such as “Do you know X?” simply limit your response to “Yes, I know them.” If there are additional questions, again limit your response to something which essentially equates to “If I can’t say something positive, I won’t be saying anything at all.”

If an individual seeks your opinion on a potential service provider or vendor, be honest and be careful.  If you’ve used the person yourself, then say so… “Yes I’ve worked with him/her.  I’m not comfortable making a positive recommendation and here are three reasons why…”

Last year I had a reporter ask me about a former colleague and business associate.  The question was did I know this person.  My answer was simply yes.  I left it at that.  Now the reporter didn’t choose to ask a follow-up question like “How do you know him? What is your experience?”  Be very careful with these types of questions and I have to add an extra caution here.  When talking to reporters always assume what you are saying is on the record and subject to print.

It is human nature to want to talk about “how you been done wrong”.  Resist!  Keep your venting and discussions between you and those you KNOW you can trust – and in some cases, you and your lawyer!

If you have had the bad experience, it is inevitable  this person will burn someone else.  If they are someone without substance behind the image, when they don’t deliver on the promises – the hype will become apparent.

On the other hand, why waste your energy on someone who really doesn’t matter in the big picture.  There are always going to be people who are unethical, misleading, deceptive (of others and themselves) and (okay I have to throw this in) deluded!  To quote a former colleague “I don’t know which would be worse – that he is a liar or that he actually believes what he says!”

If you happen to continue to travel in the same circles and keep crossing paths, if people choose to align themselves on one side or the other, then rise above the situation.  Be polite.  Don’t avoid contact.  Don’t act as if you have something to hide or have done something wrong.  You haven’t!  Be professional and be courteous.  This often has a negating effect on any tales which have been or are being told.  Hold your head up, smile, and demonstrate that your conscience is clear.

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