Tag Archives: Dominique Strauss-Kahn

May 20, 2011 | cwinters | Tagged , ,

The Crisis Communicator’s Conundrum: When you are the “scene of the crime,” Is Silence the Best Communications Strategy?

Most people understand that if you do the wrong thing, you’ve earned your spot on the front page. A collapsed Ponzi scheme. An airplane somewhere other than a runway. A lawsuit.

But what happens when the actions of others put you in the middle of a story you don’t want to be in….when you are the scene of the proverbial crime, not its perpetrator? Like being the airline when the employee pops the chute and quits over the PA? (Disclosure: jetBlue is a client) Or being the hotel where sexual assault occurred and your employee was the victim? Or the restaurant where the mob boss was shot?

Crisis communications is about communicating, right? Maybe not. Sometimes the hardest thing to do is to just be quiet – to duck and let the story pass. Unless you are an enabler to the issue – something in your policies or actions enabled the situation, or could have prevented it – communicating just makes you a bigger part of the story.

Even though your instinct tells you to defend your Company’s honor, the more you communicate, the more you become a part of the story. This is especially true as the news cycle winds down, and the media starts looking for new angles for “day 2” stories.

For those reasons, Sofitel, the employer of the woman who was allegedly sexually assaulted by IMF Head Dominique Strauss-Kahn, and the site the location of the incident, has managed this crisis perfectly by cooperating fully with authorities and otherwise keeping its head low.

Sometimes the best strategy is to let it pass.

May 16, 2011 | rtauberman | Tagged ,

IMF Can’t Stand by Their Man

News broke over the weekend that IMF head and would-be French Presidential candidate Dominique Strauss-Kahn, had been arrested in New York and jailed on sexual assault charges (he was actually taken off a plane to France on his way to meetings with European leaders regarding the debt crisis). Stories about the sexual misconduct or marital dalliances of political/governmental leaders are certainly not new, yet the allegations against Strauss-Kahn given his prior history at the IMF raises serious concerns about the reputation of the Fund and how it will function going forward.

Strauss-Kahn, a married, former Finance Minister, has a bit of a reputation in France as a womanizer (not necessarily a negative for the French electorate) and was investigated just months after assuming his role at IMF for having a consensual affair with a staffer. She resigned, he was cleared of wrongdoing, apologized and issued a statement which said, “I agree with the board that the personal behavior of the managing director sets an important tone for the institution and I am committed, going forward, to uphold the high standards that are expected of this position.”

So much for tone-setting and commitment.

The reputation of organizations, from corporations to NGOs, is closely tied to the standing of their leaders, perhaps even more so in the digital age when news such as this travels the world in nanoseconds. The IMF board was put on notice early about possible issues with Strauss-Kahn but made a decision to stick with him in 2008, weathering the bad press at the time, but deferring to his promises, past resume and the battle being waged against the global financial chaos of the time.

For now, the IMF is offering little comment, seeking to deflect to Strauss-Kahn’s lawyers, and its Board will be considering its options. While in American jurisprudence, you are innocent until proven guilty, the court of public opinion has no such protections.

Reputation is a fragile thing and the IMF is often in a public relations battle regarding its funding and activities. It can’t risk any further assaults. The IMF needs to be transparent, meet the issues head-on and move quickly to mitigate the damage already being done to its name and mission. Unlike Strauss-Kahn’s wife who is publicly supporting his innocence, the IMF cannot afford to stand by their man.