Monday, March 29, 2004


Why is it clients call with bombshell news late in the afternoon? Why is the news sticky or worse, and there is almost nothing one can do because of a pending lawsuit or charge? These thoughts occurred to me during a recent incident.

I find bombshells interesting as public relations challenges, but often one can only listen. In the early hours of a bombshell, facts are missing, and one should never expose a client or oneself to speculation. It is especially difficult when there are multiple parties, all of whom have different interpretations of events. A client will state a case only to be corrected by another. Suddenly, all advice is moot.

I had an incident in which a client said someone was a former employee. Later, another person at the client said the individual was still employed. That one fact changed the course of our counsel. I had been giving erroneous advice on the assumption the individual had no role in the company. The person who told me the individual was no longer an employee should have known, but he didn't.

Finding facts under pressure isn't easy, especially when media are calling and on deadline. One needs time, and there isn't any. This is as much the reason for a "no comment" as anything else. About all one can do is to correct obvious errors. For example, a reporter might think an entity is a subsidiary, when it isn't, and a person a CEO, when he or she has no management role. One can address that but then, must stop. It is tempting to keep talking -- a fatal lure.

No matter how experienced one gets in handling bombshells, there are embarrassing outcomes lurking even in innocent words one exchanges with a reporter. Bombshells call for high-risk communications. That's what makes them fun.


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