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May 5, 2014 | cwinters

Opening a Window of Goodwill

One of the cardinal rules of PR is that the status of your reputation will determine people’s initial response to any situation. If you’ve worked hard to build a good reputation, then people will be more inclined to give you the benefit of the doubt when things go wrong, which buys you a magical window of time to right the ship before things get too ugly. By stockpiling goodwill among your stakeholders when times are good, you can even lengthen the amount of time that window is open.

On the other hand, if you haven’t spent the time to enhance your reputation or stockpile goodwill, then that valuable window of time is most likely shut tight, and righting the ship becomes an even bigger challenge in the onslaught of public scrutiny.

A perfect example occurred recently when the Treasury Department Inspector General for Tax Administration released a report outlining how the IRS distributed over $2.8 million in bonuses over the last two years to employees who had been disciplined for various offenses, including giving $1 million in bonuses to over 1,100 employees who hadn’t adequately paid their own taxes.

For an organization that rates as the least popular federal entity, it’s clear the IRS does not have a good reputation and has not banked much goodwill among the public. As the media continues to swarm all over the story and members of Congress begin demanding answers, it is also clear that the window of opportunity to prevent this report from becoming yet another PR disaster is already closed, if it was ever actually open to begin with.

This case provides a valuable reminder that, regardless of your industry, goodwill and a solid reputation can work wonders to smooth over the occasional negative headline. The American public can be very understanding when they choose to be. Unfortunately, for the IRS, the taxman never gets the benefit of the doubt.

Of course, another cardinal rule of PR is that facts trump communications. The fundamental facts of your situation will ultimately carry the day. In the case of the IRS, no amount of crisis communications can gloss over the glaring hypocrisy of paying bonuses to tax collectors who haven’t paid their taxes.

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Posted by cwinters at 10:10 am | Tagged , | Comment (0)

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