Saturday, February 02, 2008

What is Worse -- The Truth or Spin?

We had an interesting exercise question from the book this week, and very interesting student responses. What do you do when you have negative news? First, understand that something negative to one person isn't negative to all. Player departures often appear negative, but there isn't a coach in the country that won't say sometimes you get addition of team unity through subtraction of a player or two.

Be concise. Be honest as you are legally allowed to be. And understand when you do not say what happened, often the perception will be much worse than the reality. Case in point: Athlete is leaving program due to a family situation. If you take the "positive" road and try to ignore that the athlete is leaving, when it is discovered it immediately looks suspicious. Suppose you literally say "family situation," but the truth is she's pregnant. Unless that athlete is about to disappear from the face of the earth -- 1950s-style -- in six to 12 months it will be really obvious what happened. In the meantime, people will wonder -- did she flunk out, is she on drugs, is she fighting with the coach/team, is she a quitter.

Meanwhile, all the sunshine statements in the world won't fix the problems avoiding or hiding the truth caused. Reputation of the school and individual are at stake. Look, people make mistakes. And people forgive those mistakes when they are dealt with honestly. Don't compound the mistake with an obfuscation that makes the situation worse.

This was one of the class' money answers:
"A sports information specialist should be honest when dealing with a negative situation. The SID should establish its credibility by alerting the media as oppose to the media finding out on their own. After alerting the media, they should focus on upcoing and current positive issues to take focus from the news-making negative issue."

+1 to you for that answer.

And part of another that elaborated on what that release should say: "It would probably be smart for the SID to also include a quote from the coach on the matter, that way, once you give out the relase, the subject doesn't have to come up any more."

There is faith for the future here. But not everything is not good. One answer encouraged the release of bad news only internally as a way to keep the media from making a matter worse. Um, there's this thing called the internet -- and you're department (regardless of who or where) leaks like a sieve. Maybe I need to revisit this in class on Tuesday.

Have to add this one, in which the student adds a great angle to being up-front: "The SID should announce with the negative information a plan of action, or a way they are already solving the problem." Nice.

And to the class -- you are getting ready to cover the men's basketball game in 30 minutes, correct?

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