We are a nation of liars. We lie about our height, weight, age, and income. We tell “white lies” to friends, ” That dress looks great on you,” and we put off people we don’t want in our lives, by claiming to be busy, even when we’re not.
We tell half truths as well. When I wrote the society column for the Miami Herald, I remember a woman saying she had dinner with Luciano Pavarotti the previous night. She had, as one of the 600 people at the charity event. Here’s another way we inflate what we’ve done: A term at a university easily turns into a place where we got a degree–with honors!
So in one sense lying on a resume is no big deal–except when it is–when you get caught. What was Yahoo CEO Scott Thompson thinking, or wasn’t he thinking at all, when the resume with inaccurate information was created? I don’t know. Thompson doesn’t have a degree in computer science, but he makes the claim he does. That’s bad.
What’s worse is that Yahoo’s SEC filing has him listed as having that degree. So does the company’s website. And when Thompson was President of eBay‘s PayPal division, it, too, included the undeserved credential.
Let’s leave Thompson to his fate, and talk about you, and your business. Why should this story concern you? Well, if you’re sure that everything about your business, and everyone working for and with your business, is 100 percent kosher, it needn’t concern you at all.
But people are people, and all too often they say and do things that can affect your business. (Think about Dior and designer John Galliano, who signed his own fashion death warrant with his racist rant.)
What Yahoo is facing, and what you need to know about, is Crisis Communications 101. It’s a four step process to rescue a rotten situation.
Crisis Communications 101
- Choose a spokesperson and have him or her admit there’s a problem–don’t try to cover it up or downplay it. (We all know how well that approach worked for former President Clinton.) Yahoo called the unearned degree an “inadvertent error,” which is not a smart thing for a company already in trouble to do.
- After the admission, comes the apology. Just as in nursery school, if you’re wrong, you have to say, I’m sorry. Thompson, in a memo to Yahoo staff, claimed “full responsibility,” and said, “I want you to know how deeply I regret how this issue has affected the company and all of you.”
- Promise to fix the problem. Explain the steps you will take to correct the situation, and also what you plan to do so that it, or something similar to it, doesn’t happen again.
- Then you have to make good your promises.
Here’s hoping you never have to get involved with crisis communications. And here’s hoping that Yahoo follows these steps. As for Thompson, what do you think should happen? Is he the right person to lead the company?
If you want more ideas about bringing in business, I can help. I’ve been a retail reporter at Women’s Wear Daily and Home Furnishings News, a columnist at the Miami Herald and a correspondent at People.
I’ve also handled the marketing and public relations at major corporations and small businesses. Need a speaker or a consultant? Get in touch at Ask Laurel (one word) at laureltielis.com or connect with me at LinkedIn.
Copyright © 2012 Laurel Tielis