Why saying ‘sorry’ won’t be Harvey’s saving grace

Why saying ‘sorry’ won’t be Harvey’s saving grace

The story has broken. More and more women are coming forward, and rightly so. Although once revered internationally, deep down, Harvey Weinstein must have known that one day his actions would catch up with him. Still…he appeared untouchable for so long. With allegations pouring out of Hollywood left, right and centre, there is certainly no smoke without fire; and the smoking gun is aimed firmly at Harvey.

Of course, his people must be working hard to minimise the impact of the sordid allegations. Which begs the question…how many companies and indeed, high-profile individuals, are now looking to their own crisis-management procedure. Even the best-run organisations can be vulnerable to reputational risk because they’re made up of people; and it could well be the behaviour of senior staff outside of work which is their undoing. And these needn’t be extreme illegal behaviours such as Harvey’s alleged atrocious acts.

Every organisation is vulnerable to a crisis; whether it be online or offline. Managing such crises is paramount; being able to ensure the integrity of their reputation is their most valuable asset. And any reputational risk agency worth their weight in gold would encourage their client to follow simple yet effective steps when it comes to managing a crisis. The likes of Uber, FIFA and Volkswagen are perfect examples of why businesses cannot drag their heels; step up, make a plan and never rest on your laurels.

Now, we know that Weinstein’s alleged behaviour is not at all similar to a corporate scandal, which typically involves corruption, bribery or fraud. And we are definitely not suggesting that Weinstein’s agents ‘spin’ the story enough to detract from the potential barrage of criminal charges coming his way. His reputation is well and truly over, and rightly so. But, we do want to encourage companies to really think about strategy and how they can prepare their business should bad practices ever be exposed. A good, hard look at how spectacularly an untouchable hero can fall from grace, is the perfect way to encourage businesses to effectively combat an exposé.

Securing your company’s reputation should be an early step in setting up your business. There should be a procedure in place from day one; not a panicked free for all if and when something testing happens…as they say, being prepared is always better than being caught with your pants down! You should, at the very least, ensure you have a team of spokespeople in place, have monitoring systems set up and have drafted “holding statements” in order to stand you in good stead should a blaze start. Here are the Four A’s s that you can immediately start to think about to ensure you are able to keep a handle on your rep…

Ask yourself:
– What is the scale of this disaster? Is there truth behind the allegations?
– Who or what is the source? Is there more than one allegation?
– Who needs to be informed? Has it gone viral?

No doubt, in Weinstein’s case, his lawyers will be doing as much as possible to assess the scale of the allegations to be able to fight the fire as well as they can. It is unknown how prepared his team were for the news to break…so when making plans yourself, it is always best to rehearse thoroughly so there will be no delay in your public response.

We have all heard the phrase ‘man up’. Being accountable is all about taking responsibility for your actions and then putting into play a procedure to fix and make amends. Don’t be afraid to apologise – it is the first step to recovering your reputation. Holding your hands up in a heartfelt, genuine apology will automatically gain you respect. Go public with your apology, whether it be on social media, your blog or even on television, radio or in print format.

People can sniff out someone who is not entirely genuine in their apology, and respect is lost even further when a party makes no move to apologise. It has been over a week now since the news broke of Weinstein’s behaviour and the man himself has yet to pass comment…

True, his lawyers may be encouraging a ‘no comment’ stance; especially when anything he does say could be used against him in evidence. But surely the decent thing to do is to hold your hands up and admit fault and say sorry, right…? However, in light of sexually-related offences, saying sorry will essentially do little good…but any organisation wanting to learn from this scandal should start to work out how to genuinely apologise.

Work out and execute your action plan in order to fix the issue. Don’t delay. And be communicative; you will need to reassure your stakeholders, employees and even the public. With the right team in place, scandals can be controlled, recovery can be possible and reputations can be saved…just think about the J&J Tylenol scandal. Your reputation could end up being more secure and stronger than before (although Harvey’s is, quite rightly, down the proverbial drain).

Once the dust has had time to settle, take the time to sit down with your team and analyse…
– What went well? What could have been done better, quicker, more proactively?
– What feedback have you had from shareholders, employees the public?
– What processes do you need to put in place to ensure there isn’t a repeat?

And so, whilst we wouldn’t go near Harvey with a bargepole (and his spokeswoman Sallie Hofmeister will be wishing she could hit rewind), some good can come out of a truly horrible situation. Whilst there won’t be a happy ending for Harvey or his victims, businesses can use this as an opportunity to clean up their reputation management processes and ensure they are well positioned to deal with any crisis before the credits begin to roll.