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Sticks and stones

Whoever said “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never harm me” didn’t really understand how the world works. I’ll never condone violence, but today, thanks to the ease with which anyone can post an unkind remark or wage an unrelenting bullying campaign, thousands of people can behave in the most appallingly violent way. And get away with it. Just by using words. Would these people ever say to someone’s face what they say from a very safe distance? Doubtful.

I write for a living and words are the tools of my trade. I harness these words, whether written or spoken, to create ideas, impart information and develop understanding. Often I need to project a very specific image for a product, service or brand, and encourage people to get interested and get involved. I am always positive but, occasionally, I come across the odd crisis where I must avoid attracting attention.

I really wish I’d been a fly on the wall when Al Gore was running for Vice Presidency in Bill Clinton’s administration, as his crisis was handled with, … and there’s only one, rather old-fashioned word for it…, aplomb!

His wife, Tipper Gore, found out that her husband’s great-great uncle, Gunther Gore, was hanged in 1889 in Tennessee. He was a horse thief and a train robber. He was sent to prison, escaped and robbed one train six times before being caught by the Pinkerton Detective Agency. The only photograph that existed of Gunther was on the gallows moments before he was hung. This was not the kind of publicity a Vice President needed.

 Al Gore’s PR people were briefed, the photograph edited to an enlarged head shot and was accompanied by this text:

 “Gunther Gore was a famous rancher in early Tennessee history. His business empire grew to include acquisition of valuable equestrian assets and intimate dealings with the Tennessee railroad. Beginning in 1883, he devoted several years of his life to service at a government facility, finally taking leave to resume his dealings with the railroad. In 1887, he was a key player in a vital investigation run by the renowned Pinkerton Detective Agency. In 1889, Gunther passed away during an important civic function held in his honour when the platform upon which he was standing collapsed.”

 Words, whether they are used to destroy or to inspire, can shape history. I have a great respect for their power.

 

Posted in Brand values, Crisis management, Diversity, Don't lose reputation, General, Honest broker, Style | Leave a comment

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We are all born originals - why is it so many of us die copies?
Edward Young