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Posted on 07.19.2011

Companies have feelings too

While corporations can be perceived as cold and indifferent, I’m often surprised by the level of emotion I see working with clients facing controversial or potentially newsworthy matters. Perhaps it should come as no surprise that lawsuits, investigations, negative reviews and unfavorable media coverage tend to stir up some downright human emotions. Companies – and the executives who run them – aren’t immune to feeling sad, hurt, defensive – even angry. They want to vent, share their side of the story, and vigorously defend themselves. And sometimes they should.

As I’ve said before, being human is good. There’s nothing wrong with sharing relevant facts or showing genuine, heartfelt emotion. In fact, it’s often the right thing to do. However, emotion can make people – and companies – do crazy things. (Haven’t we all said something we wish we could take back or fired off an angry email we later regretted?) When the chips are down, it’s tempting to circle the wagons and adopt a bunker mentality. Or, even worse, take action that can ultimately undermine your credibility or make the problem worse. For example, calling a press conference to publicly question a competitor’s motives might seem like a good idea at the time but it probably isn’t a winning long-term strategy.

While it’s easy to get carried away, emotion must take a backseat to logic in a crisis situation. Issuing a firm denial or taking out an ad to address a controversial issue might provide momentary relief but can ultimately backfire by drawing more attention to an issue. (Anyone remember Jessica Hahn’s famous “I am not a bimbo” remark?) Sometimes the best response strategy involves taking a deep breath and waiting until cooler heads can prevail. If that doesn’t work, call in experts. The kind who know your business – but are far enough removed to see the forest that lies just past the trees.
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