Gini Dietrich

PR, the Murdoch Affair, and Telling the Truth

By: Gini Dietrich | July 27, 2011 | 
105

On Inside PR this week, Joe Thornley, Martin Waxman, and I chat about Rupert Murdoch’s appearance before Parliament.

What started the conversation was a really interesting blog post from Jeff Jarvis called “PR and Corruption Theater.”

Side note: I totally have a crush on Jarvis. It started when I read “What Would Google Do.” It’s only increased since reading his blog consistently. But I’m finally willing to admit it publicly after he went off on Washington about the debt ceiling. I won’t repeat the vulgarity here, but it’s worth a trip to his blog to see it.

Back to Murdoch. You see, Edelman counsels News International and, by way of that relationship, also Rupert, and his son James, Murdoch.

And, when the two Murdochs testified last week, I think we can all agree they seemed too scripted.

Jarvis says:

Was Rupert Murdoch’s dottiness a strategy handed down from Edelman or was that him abandoning his libretto to declare himself suddenly humble (if that’s humility…)?

Was James coached to be a parody of a droning MBA? Was it in the crisis-management script for Rupert to decline responsibility for the scandal in his company and to blame those below him and those below them? Was it in his PR script to lash out at his competitors to for causing him to lose BSkyB, and not at himself?

When we chat about it on the podcast, the thing I take biggest issue with is not that Edelman coached these guys or that they were well-timed or well-scripted.

It’s that, as business leaders, it’s our job to take responsibility for the actions of our employees.

Sure there are times that you don’t know what’s happening right under your nose. Illegal actions can take place without your knowing it. And you have to protect yourself so you don’t go to jail for the stupidity of others.

BUT.

From a communication perspective, the father and son duo should take responsibility and say something along the lines of, “My team screwed up. I don’t condone it. I don’t like it. Here is what I’m going to do to make sure it never happens again.”

Having worked crisis communication for many hearings, I get the lawyers are there handcuffing them a bit. But there are ways to negotiate telling the truth and taking responsibility without hurting legal proceedings.

David Weinberger makes another interesting point on his blog post “Edelman and Murdoch.

If I were Edelman PR, I would probably agree to take on NewsCorp, but only if I were satisfied to a reasonable degree (yes, them’s fudge words) that NewsCorp was ready to tell the truth. (Clients do lie to their PR companies. The first time Edelman catches NewsCorp lying to them, Edelman should quite publicly drop them.)

So, here we have a CEO who is blaming everyone but himself. A chairman of the board feigning humility. And a duo who clearly have been overly scripted and rehearsed to not serve the best interests of their public.

If it were Arment Dietrich counseling them, I’d pull the Murdochs into my office and have a stern talk with them. If they continued to behave this way, we’d fire them. Quickly and publicly.

It’s our job, as communication professionals, to counsel our clients to tell the truth. Not to spin a lie. Not to make themselves look better.

To tell the truth.

After all, Spin Sucks.

About Gini Dietrich


Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She also is the lead blogger at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro.

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105 Comments on "PR, the Murdoch Affair, and Telling the Truth"

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brianhogg
brianhogg
4 years 9 months ago

@SpinSucks @TheSalesLion Signed up for the webinar on Thurs, but received no confirmation e-mail and my account doesn’t login? Order #50.

BestRoofer
BestRoofer
4 years 9 months ago

Great advice Gini. I think that they should hire you. I would love to see you give them a talkin to! It really is advice that all CEO’s should take to heart.

KenMueller
4 years 9 months ago

I would pay big bucks to sit and watch @ginidietrich lecturing the Murdoch’s in her office. Oh man, what great theater!

KDillabough
4 years 9 months ago

@KenMueller @ginidietrich I’d buy tickets!

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 9 months ago

@brianhogg Hey Brian! I have an email drafted to you with the registration link. Just waiting on one thing from dev team @spinsucks

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 9 months ago

@BestRoofer I have been known to give a good lecture. We don’t know if the PR and legal teams are consulting them, if they’re lying to their counsel, or if they’re ignoring counsel altogether. But I do know I’d be telling them where to stick it.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 9 months ago

@KDillabough @KenMueller I’d let you both in for free!

KDillabough
4 years 9 months ago

@ginidietrich @KenMueller Ooooh, and that means no lineup either, right?

Great post Gini: love your integrity…love that you always do and advocate to do “the right thing”. Wherever a web of spun lies or half-truths is allowed to spin, it does indeed suck…and people eventually get found out. Your point is clear and spot on: Tell The Truth. ALWAYS. Cheers! Kaarina

John Falchetto
4 years 9 months ago

Fire them Gini?

I guess in this case you are acting a bit like a lawyer, every person deserves a decent defense but where do you draw the line. When is the behavior so bad that you can’t help them anymore?

Also there is a thin line between making themselves look better and spinning a lie. Where do you draw that line? If this was in the US they can be protected by the fifth, are they lying by omission?

Perhaps this should be better left to lawyers rather than a PR agency. FWIW as Davina would say.

HowieSPM
HowieSPM
4 years 9 months ago
Its kind of funny often it is Agencies lying to clients by over selling what they can do for them, and Mr Weinberger is telling Edelman to drop News Corp the minute they lie. Well seriously news Corp has allowed their news media to blatantly lie over and over (not just talking Fox News here) to make money. They have no ethics in the news media division. Just make money. So any Agency who gets hired on should know that or they have no game. I often tell people to observe how people treat others. If they screw others they… Read more »
HowieSPM
HowieSPM
4 years 9 months ago

@John Falchetto That is a great point John that everyone deserves a defense. I am one of those people who loves Fox TV, Fox Sports and Fox Movies…yet the Fox Media side I often wish the Murdoch’s would go to jail. As long as it doesn’t affect the Simpsons or my NY Giants Football Schedule 8)

NancyD68
4 years 9 months ago

@HowieSPM @John Falchetto A fellow Giant fan? I knew you were cool Howie!

NancyD68
4 years 9 months ago

@KDillabough @KenMueller @ginidietrich I will SELL the tickets. I need the money! I can even get a Don King wig!

NancyD68
4 years 9 months ago

Nobody wants to tell the truth Gini. Everyone wants to have their hand in the cookie jar until they get busted. Then they want to blame someone else for why they did it. Murdoch is probably going to try to lie.. Why would he tell the truth?

Unless he is given a damned good reason to tell the truth he will lie like a rug, just like Donald Trump’s ridiculous comb-over. I swear that thing must be fake. Who has hair like that?

HowieSPM
HowieSPM
4 years 9 months ago

@NancyD68 @John Falchetto rumor is we could have Plaxico back. Though concerned we have so much of the offense as free agents. Hopefully we will know this weekend when everyone starts signing players.

HowieSPM
HowieSPM
4 years 9 months ago

@NancyD68 or a brain he has been telling the Republicans to force a Debt Default so we go into a depression just so Obama doesn’t get re-elected. And people call me an Alien!

brianhogg
brianhogg
4 years 9 months ago

@ginidietrich Thanks! Will watch for the email. The ecom. site has a bunch of test text/entries, so was concerned it was the wrong site

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 9 months ago

@kenyangetter Thanks!

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 9 months ago

@patrickreyes New avatar!

patrickreyes
patrickreyes
4 years 9 months ago

@ginidietrich Like it?

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 9 months ago

@jodykoehler Jody! Hi!

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 9 months ago

@jonbuscall Hi!

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 9 months ago

@paulronge Thank you!

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 9 months ago

@NancyD68 More that I want the PR firm to resign if he doesn’t.

NancyD68
NancyD68
4 years 9 months ago

@ginidietrich then they should be resigning very soon.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 9 months ago

@brianhogg Yeah – we still haven’t launched the ecomm site. But I just sent the email!

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 9 months ago

@patrickreyes I do!

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 9 months ago

@NancyD68 I doubt they will. It would be great for the industry if they did, but money talks.

NancyD68
NancyD68
4 years 9 months ago

@ginidietrich indeed it does. Sad but true.

roygrubb
roygrubb
4 years 9 months ago

@Soulati I heard a UK lawyer say they should have just stuck to the line that they had a legal case coming u… (cont) http://deck.ly/~saWwU

roygrubb
roygrubb
4 years 9 months ago

@Soulati You’ll have seen this, of course http://exm.nr/qWRsKi

TheJackB
4 years 9 months ago

@HowieSPM If the Republicans find a candidate who isn’t completely crazy and can speak coherently Obama is done. Party affiliation doesn’t matter in an economy like this. Too many people are losing their homes- can’t tell you how many I know who are educated and have always worked. But I’ll save that rant…

pocojuan
pocojuan
4 years 9 months ago

@ginidietrich what a concept – transparency authenticity integrity delivering real value -build trust passionate loyalty = soc capital

TheJackB
4 years 9 months ago
Gini, your comment about firing them makes me wonder how many companies are willing to fire their biggest clients. All that money does funny things to people. I am not directing that at you, just thinking out loud. When I worked as an account executive in manufacturing I had a major client tell me that if I found him companionship he would sign a very large contract with me. I was 27 and we were in Vegas where there was “access” to the kind of companionship he wanted. It is not a perfect comparison, but I won’t lie and say… Read more »
paulronge
paulronge
4 years 9 months ago

@ginidietrich De nada! 😉 It was really a clever and interesting analysis you did on the Murdoch crisis topic!!

Remiliz
Remiliz
4 years 9 months ago

Yes! Testify, sister!

wabbitoid
4 years 9 months ago

Excellent! I was thinking of you when I watched an awful lot of their testimony before the Parlimentary Committee. The only problem I have with your advice is that it might be a bit too obvious. :-)

jodykoehler
jodykoehler
4 years 9 months ago

@ginidietrich Hi Gini! And like Joey Tribbiani would say… http://youtu.be/43wkqM27z2E ? 😉

Nic_Cartwright
4 years 9 months ago

Be responsible and tell the truth (or at least don’t lie) – life lessons #topten

janbeery
4 years 9 months ago

The truth will always find you out. Better to maintain integrity then suffer the consequences of deceit down the road.

SpinSucks
SpinSucks
4 years 9 months ago

@c_pappas Thanks, Christina! :)

TheSalesLion
TheSalesLion
4 years 9 months ago

@brianhogg @SpinSucks Hey Brian, looking forward to you being there at the webinar! :)

SpinSucks
SpinSucks
4 years 9 months ago

@brianhogg you should have received it by now, yes? If not, let me know. thanks, Lisa

brianhogg
brianhogg
4 years 9 months ago

@SpinSucks I received the e-mail thanks!

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 9 months ago

@janbeery Exactly! Why is that so hard?

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 9 months ago

@Nic_Cartwright One would think they’d learn from other company leaders. But maybe thornley is right and they think they’re above it because they’re so filthy rich.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 9 months ago

@wabbitoid Didn’t they seem waaaay too scripted and well-timed?

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 9 months ago

@TheJackB It’s really, really hard to fire a client. We did it, for the first time, two years ago. But I’ll tell you what, the relief you feel and watching morale bounce back is worth the big firing. I agree that most company leaders won’t do it, but I love the Jack Welch philosophy – fire the bottom 10% every year.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 9 months ago
@NancyD68 Like we chatted about on Twitter, this really isn’t about whether or not Murdoch will tell the truth. You can’t make anyone do that. But, as the PR firm, you absolutely can fire them if they won’t tell you the truth and let you do your job. I worked on the Bridgestone/Firestone account when tires were blowing up and the company leaders were too arrogant to admit anything was wrong. I was very proud of the partner of our profit center when he told them where to go…in front of all of us. And we all know how that… Read more »
ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 9 months ago

@TheJackB @HowieSPM Don’t get me started on the debt default. As a business owner, I’m scared to death. No one knows what it’s going to do to our country and to each of us individually. It makes me nauseous.

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