What happens when you try to bluff in a crisis


Eric Mower + Associates teaches many executive media and presentation training sessions. Two of the techniques are “stop,” and “facts are your friends.”

These seem fairly simple, if not easy to execute. Stop means, answer the question and stop. Don’t fill silence; don’t embellish; don’t brag; don’t show the questioner how brilliant you are; get in, get out.

Facts are your friends is also a simple and clear dictum. Don’t lie. Tell the truth. Use facts to explain what happened.

So what happens when you don’t stop and you don’t tell the truth? Thanks to my partner and colleague Rick Lyke, we see it’s not pretty.

As The Anti Media reported last week:

French television station Canal+ recently sat down with Dr. Patrick Moore for an upcoming documentary. Dr. Moore, who claims to be an ecological expert and is currently the frontman for Ecosense Environmental, stated to the interviewer that Monsanto’s weed killer Roundup was not responsible for skyrocketing cancer rates in Argentina.

This claim comes on the heels of last week’s World Health Organization report citing the weed killer[‘s main ingredient] as a probable cause of cancer.

Soon after the interview began, it took a turn for the surreal.

Dr. Moore insisted that Roundup is safe to drink, at which point the interviewer did the only logical thing one could do in that situation. He offered the doctor a glass of the weed killer to allow him an opportunity to back up his statement

moore

 

According to various media, including Newsweek, Moore is a former Greenpeace member and a Ph.D. He supports genetically modified crops and in 2014, testified to a U.S. Senate committee that there is “no scientific proof” that humans are driving the global warming.

You can imagine that his interview wasn’t pretty. First, Moore got his facts wrong. Then, he didn’t cut his losses and stop.

The exchange follows:

Canal+: “You want to drink some? We have some here.”

Moore: “I’d be happy to, actually…. Uhh…Not.. Not really. But I know it wouldn’t hurt me.”

Canal+: “If you say so, I have some glyphosate, have some.”

Moore: “No. I’m not stupid.”

Canal+: “So, it’s dangerous, right?

Moore: “No, People try to commit suicide with it and fail; fail regularly.”

Canal+: “Tell the truth, it’s dangerous.”

Moore: “It’s not dangerous to humans.”

Canal+: “So, are you ready to drink one glass?”

Moore: “No, I’m not an idiot. Interview me about golden rice, that’s what I’m talking about.”

A dramatic example of how not to conduct an interview. What would the alternative be: “It’s a weed killer, it’s obviously dangerous and that’s why we put warning labels all over the container. There is no evidence it causes widespread health problems, however.”

Not surprisingly, according to Newsweek, the chemical giant sought to distance itself from Moore.

“Dr. Patrick Moore is not and never has been a paid lobbyist for Monsanto,” Charla Lord, a spokesperson for Monsanto, wrote in an email Friday.

Factual. Defensible. Stop.

The content of this blog is about crisis management and mismanagement in a digital age. It originates with Steve Bell, who spent 30 years as a journalist for the Associated Press and in four top editor positions at The Buffalo News. He is now Partner/Director of Public Affairs and Crisis and Reputation Management at Eric Mower + Associates, one of the nation’s largest independent advertising, integrated marketing and public relations agencies, with eight offices in the East. Learn more about EMA at mowerpr.com/crisisready. Steve’s blog is based on his own opinions and does not represent the views or positions of Eric Mower + Associates.

 

 

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About steveoncrisis

The content is about crisis management and mismanagement in a digital age. It comes from Steve Bell, who spent 30 years as a journalist for the Associated Press and as managing editor and editorial page editor at The Buffalo News. He is now Partner/Director of Public Affairs at Eric Mower and Associates, one of the nation's largest independent advertising, integrated marketing and public relations agency with six offices in the Northeast and Southeast.
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