Drawing attention to your mistakes, flaws and flops?
Most organisations like to tell a good news story. They want the public to know about their successes and how they make the community a better place in some way. So is it ever a good idea to draw people’s attention to your mistakes, flaws and flops? Is lying low a better strategy?
If we think of our behaviour at a personal level we can understand this topic from another perspective. We like to feel competent, to look, or appear at our best. We most certainly don’t want to look silly or bad. Showing off our best side is okay as most people are usually only superficially interested in us. So if we are going to be noticed it might as well be when we are at our best.
However, for organisations working with the community it’s more complicated than just wanting people to know about all your good stuff. Any organisation working with the public, especially if it’s on a complex issue, has critics. Critics are likely to know all about your mistakes and shortcomings. They will want others to know them too. And, they’re going to be reluctant to acknowledge your success stories, if indeed they agree they are successes in the first place.
When you have critics who scrutinise your behaviour and performance on a constant basis, and these critics have power and influence, it’s better to own up to your failings. Lying low hoping others might not notice seems like a good idea but turns out to be a very bad one if an issue escalates and more superficially interested people get to know what your critics have known for some time.
It’s hard to do but being prepared to admit to your shortcomings is a better idea especially if your issue is a contentious one. International risk communication expert, Peter Sandman puts it this way in an article in 2013, “Bad news or embarrassing information disclosed by a whistleblower after the company tried to hide it will do approximately twenty times as much harm as the same information disclosed promptly and proactively by the company itself”