Tiger Woods was silent for almost a week amidst wide-spread media coverage of his suspicious late night car accident. For months Toyota was not only silent about the real problem with their gas pedals, they tried to initially blame the acceleration problem on floor mats. Both stories continue to have intense media coverage which includes reports on every new twist or detail, while rehashing the basic facts over and over again.

In contrast, David Letterman self-reported his sexual trysts with female staffers on his own terms, in his own words, ahead of a threatened blackmail scheme. Media coverage of Letterman’s trysts has dried up and the matter is now considered a non-story. What is the difference and what can businesses learn from these major news stories?

Self-reporting of problems helps to control the message and the timing, and seems to shorten the media life of a story. Coming clean can help a business move on past the initial media flurry, return to business as usual faster, and hopefully preserve sales and reputation. Businesses should consider credibility and accountability, and the perception of the public. Admitting mistakes and accepting responsibility is more than just something your mother tried to teach to you. It applies to businesses, sports superstars, and celebrities as well.


  • You post is a great reminder of what should be an obvious truth. I’ve watched how large companies react when faced with a problem, and stating, “No comment,” is not a good strategy. Lying is worse because it will eventually come out. The comment that, “We can’t comment on litigation,” is probably legitimate, but not good public relations. The best answer, when true, is the, “We screwed up, and we are fixing it.”

    Gavin Craig

  • Marylee Abrams

    Good point! Common sense can sometimes get lost amidst advice from public relations experts. Politicians like John Edwards need to learn the same lesson. It is only when there is an admission and acceptance of responsibility, that redemption can occur. Businesses can recover so much faster when this common sense approach is taken.