Jul 14

Is full transparency always the smartest move?

Is full transparency always the smartest move?474910328_2a788caeff

Crisis communications 101 teaches us that full disclosure of an ‘issue’ early and often is the best course for mitigating negative fallout.

The approach seems to work especially well in politics. How many politicians have short circuited such potential career disasters as drug use and infidelity by pre-empting an investigative reporter with a hastily-called press conference? The announcement is followed a feeding frenzy of short-term coverage but, usually, life goes on.

As we know, the pre-emptive, full disclosure strategy is aimed at defaming the media in particular. So, I found it fascinating last week to see a top reporter employ the very same technique in his own behalf.

The reporter was David Carr of The New York Times. His subject: the alleged ‘pit bull’ media relations strategies of Roger Ailes and his Fox Network. Sensing that his kiss-and-tell column would engender a spiteful retaliation, Carr ‘outed’ his own prior drug and alcohol abuse. Fair enough, such an admission may well have pre-empted a Fox counter offensive. But, at what personal cost?

I’ve long admired Carr and his work. Now, though, I’ll always think of him as David Carr of the Times, the recovering drug and alcohol addict. And, all future news searches will pull up the same information. Is that a good thing? 

The Web 2.0 world in which we live enables us to create and manage our personal image and reputation. So, my question is this: by disclosing his past problems in order to prevent a future Fox assault, did David Carr win the image battle, but lose the war?