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Lying: That Your Final Answer?

Posted on Saturday, Aug 4th 2007

By Richard Laermer, Guest Author

How the hell did lying become so fashionable – again!

Lately it appears everyone has foregone lessons of our recent
forefathers (Mr. WorldCom, Mr. Rigas, and M.S. Living) and it’s right back
to “what can I get away with” time AGAIN.

We are entering a nascent period where it’s too easy to get caught now since our faithful media consists of citizen journalists who will do absolutely
anything for a scoop-like lose sleep and not get paid. The trip down is
way too low these days.

Past years have exposed corporate greed and disdain for the consumer at
its finest, Enron being the poster child. Weren’t we shocked, despite
our common opinion of corporate giants being anything but flattering?
Remember how particularly outlandish few seriously shameless individuals
behaved. The late Ken Lay was face of a sinister corporate evildoing.
Faces like ours, with a nose and eyes, but at the same time something
alien. People knowingly took advantage of regular folks in ways even
80’s players like Michael Milken could not fathom.

Afterwards, people like me who write, research, teach and practice art
of consultation were waiting for a new age of ethics. Nothing spawned,
nothing earned-right?

Well, not exactly. In 2006, there was more out-and-out fibbing by giant
players than thought possible: Edelman’s blogging for Wal-Mart BS,
Sony’s bizarrely slow battery recall and $4.25 million paid-out for
illegal anti-copying software, Bausch & Lomb’s faulty solutions, and
Taco Bell’s mishandling of many vegetables.

Denials were the in look until corporations got smacked in the head by

It is as if the go-to-jail years are shades of Bobby Ewing stepping out
of a fantasy shower (reference ”

Lying is that thing our mothers warned us about. Look, I’m hardly a
Saint – I’ve had a BlackBerry pager for going on 12 years and always
claim to be somewhere I’m not (look–over here, no, here!).

But if you, like 90 percent of the world, service people for a living, all
you have are good looks and your word. Why ruin either; why even
exaggerate! It makes a journalist who reports the lie look like a dolt,
so therefore your problems get louder and more public.

Not to mention the fabulous ethical problems.

I get muttering something you quickly regret. Politicians buy back what
they say every day. If it happens, if you or someone in your company
lies, call back, apologize, make amends. Say some unruly devil made you
do it. But don’t stand by your insolence

Bausch & Lomb’s spokespeople imagined aloud that bouts of illness from
their brand of contact lens solution was not entirely their fault when
it was. I found that odd; beleaguered pharmaceutical companies usually
do okay with stopping bad situations from worsening. They know delay
will merely exacerbate. “If you don’t know what to say or how much to
say,” I’ve told pharma clients at my firm, “you end up making people mad
by not saying anything-or making things up.”

It may seem obvious (it’s not) but you can “get away with” telling the
truth by jumping up with outside data from a third-party source –
government, surveyors or testers -that you give to press before they
start to wonder and thereby emphasize the safety of your product or
pinpoint whatever problems exist. External data is somebody else’s
reputation so it’s seen as cool.

As for citizen bloggers and podcasters and e-mail trend shouters, if you
treat aggressively under full disclosure, you will rebound without folks
thinking “I caught them.” Use all open channels to talk about what
happened, analyze what went wrong, demonstrate how quickly you jumped!

Want proof that honesty wins any tough battle? Try Phillip Morris, which
has gone above and beyond a government settlement in shouting mea culpa.
A firm not known to be open has been quite grassroots with their
forthrightness. They devoted resources and spoke out on TV and radio, in
blogs, chat rooms, consumer and/or investor sites. They even dove into
shallow end of the pool with AOL and MSN.

Hollywood has taught us poorly. But it’s one thing for Miss Kidman to
pretend to be wed to Mr. Urban or Mr. Aiken to pretend to be a
hot-blooded American girl-chaser. These are performers paid to beguile
us and sell something that is pure fantasy! Entirely different for a
firm to bemoan a problem via big media with statements they and we know
is pure nonsense.

What I’ve learned from the post-dot-com workaday is smack in the middle
of Punk Marketing book, which is few days from its release as an audio-book. Here,
Simmons and I unveil a heckuva convenient truth:

Knowing that what you do passes the bullshit test and is meaningful,
honest and interesting, plus has some measure of heart, is all it takes
to make it in the world of sales, marketing, PR, and all fields of
“service.” If your work doesn’t fit the above, please find something
else to do.

Informed people want to be told what’s up and will be more inclined to
believe those who do not pander to them. So have a heart, pull that
Band-Aid brand bandage off, dole facts out. We’d rather laugh at Katie
Couric than you, anyway.

And now back to your scheduled programming, you liar!

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