History Revised

 In Crisis Management & Media Relations, Blog

I was reminded this week of the importance of messaging and getting your story out there if you want to change the narrative. I recently caught up with a friend who spent years as a criminal defense attorney. We reminisced about all the cases where I covered the stories of certain defendants represented by him or his office. Most of the conversation went like this:

Me: Don’t you remember when the police… and then I reported that…

Him: Um, it didn’t happen that way. That was wrong.

Me. No, I remember this well. This is what happened.

Him: No, it didn’t.

Suddenly, I felt like history was being rewritten on all the little crime dramas in my head. The narratives I had clung to as truth were now being questioned. Admittedly, it’s because I (and the rest of the media and, in turn, the public) had only one perspective. The police and prosecutors had the ability and incentive to talk to reporters when there was an arrest or conviction. My friend felt like in all the instances I mentioned, he could not get his side of the story out due to either legal or ethical concerns.

This is not meant to suggest that criminal defense attorneys should just put their ethics aside and start commenting on every case. Sometimes, as attorneys, our ethics and our clients do not allow us to change the narrative. The real battle of truth must happen in front of a jury only.

A call from a reporter asking for your comment should not always be feared.

However, there are plenty of instances, perhaps in a civil, non-legal, or corporate contexts, where one side does all the storytelling. If you aren’t careful, that story becomes the “truth” and what people remember. Maybe all your employees are spreading a certain message that is completely false, and it’s certainly easier and maybe more comfortable to ignore it. However, if you don’t challenge that narrative or try to share your perspective, it is often lost forever.

While there are plenty of times you simply can’t comment, I see other times as wasted opportunities. A business has an opportunity to set the record straight, or an individual could quickly educate and help the public understand an issue of importance, but they just ignore it. A call from a reporter asking for your comment should not always be feared. If it’s a crisis where the court of public opinion matters and is developing fast, you may not want to wait to weigh in on the situation because the media and others will move forward with or without you.

Perhaps a chance to comment is actually an invitation to change the course of history. You should grab it if you have the chance.


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