Monday, July 25, 2011

Lipstick on a Pig Won't Change Bacon to Steak

Whether we’re in government or private life, there will always be times or events that we’d really rather not face.  A project doesn’t work out quite as planned, or someone in the organization or family is involved in wrongdoing.  It is a natural human tendency to want things to be right and positive, and quite often, the reaction to such events is to try and deny or change the scenario – in the public relations field it is called ‘putting lipstick on a pig.’  Well, take it from an old country boy, “you can put lipstick on a pig, but it will still be a pig.”

As difficult as it might seem, the best response to unforeseen or negative events is to face them squarely and honestly.  If something or someone in your organization goes wrong, the best source of that information is you.  And that news should be delivered factually and honestly, without spin.  Trust me, the bad news will eventually come out, and if you allow others to be the ones to expose it, it will sound worse than it actually might be.

When I was a kid, there was a radio and TV show called Dragnet.  The main character, police sergeant Joe Friday, was famous for saying to people he questioned, “I just want the facts, ma’am.”  Well, if you’re the spokesman for your organization, or a journalist, this is good advice to follow.  Report the facts, and leave opinion and spin to the editorial columnists.

At the end of the day, the best way to deal with unpleasant events is just plain, unvarnished truth.