20 Oct 2015

Why an honest approach is the best way forward

Sean Hand – Account Executive at Spreckley

In any walk of life, being honest about both your successes and your failings is a virtue that most law-abiding, scrupulous individuals will value. In PR, this is even more important: embellishing truths, promulgating lies or trying to cover up problems will ultimately come back to bite you.

Sure, there are many examples you can point to where it can be argued that a little bit of dishonesty can help you get by. This week, Apprentice hopeful Dan Callaghan got the boot from the competition (or ‘process’, to use its business-jargon moniker) for being open about his areas of weakness. In less trivial matters, Jeremy Corbyn, despite being hailed by some for a fresh approach to politics founded on honesty and integrity, has been pilloried by others for sticking too closely to his most valued principles.

The perpetual slanging match of politics (and The Apprentice, for that matter) will never change, unfortunately. Instead, let’s take a look at two radically different recent issues where the value of honesty can’t be underestimated.

BAD: Volkswagen

We all know by now that a large number of folks over at Volkswagen have been very, very dishonest. Inevitably, their secret has been leaked and VW’s reputation now sits on the brink of the abyss.

Evidently, not installing the devices in the first place (i.e. an honest approach) would have prevented this whole mess from ever existing in the first place. But the persistent denial of any involvement in the scheme by senior figures at VW is making what was already a bad situation much, much worse. Front up, admit where you went wrong and from there you might be able to salvage a scrap of integrity and work on rebuilding a damaged reputation.

GOOD: England Rugby

Rugby fans across England were let down enormously by the national team’s disastrous showing at this year’s World Cup. The team looked strong in the build-up and optimism was high ahead of England’s first pool matches. Yet something went horribly wrong somewhere along the line.

Such an early exit is a bit of a PR disaster for head coach Stuart Lancaster, that much is clear. But where he wins is in his open approach to his team’s failings: he has taken responsibility and recognised that preparation was not adequate. The World Cup debacle will likely mean the end of his England career, but he can at least leave his position with his reputation as an honest operator intact, and the rebuilding job for his successor will likely be easier as a result.

VW’s former CEO Martin Winterkorn might be wishing he had done the same.