Several years ago we had a client that had an issue with certain regulatory bodies and they were feeling a lot of pressure—an investigation was taking place, some wrongdoing had occurred (and been addressed) and the media had gotten wind of it. This client worked in the human services field, serving a vulnerable population, so it was a sensitive area.
This client was livid at the way it thought it was being treated by these regulatory bodies, and told us they wanted to “fight back,” to turn the tables on the ones who were investigating them; to publicly accuse them of being unfair, punitive and biased.
We heard them out and said we understood. Then we told them—as strongly as we could—that they should not do this.
What would lashing out get them, aside from momentarily feeling better for having done it? What would be the point of publicly taking on an investigator, particularly with a vulnerable population at the heart of the matter? If anything, it could have made things move from bad to worse, which is the last thing anyone wanted and the least strategic move they could make.
What to do?
The better strategy would be to communicate key messages in the strongest way possible to the most important audiences. Make it clear that their top priority was working cooperatively with authorities to protect the population being served.
Could the messages be strong? Of course. Could our client defend itself without acting in accusatory manner? Definitely. And they could do so, absent of anger or spite, keeping focus on the welfare of the people they served, rather than engaging in a personal attack on the regulatory bodies.
We have found it always best, when working with clients who have issues to manage, to view the situation the way an objective third party would. That way the emotion can be detached and the situation can be seen with an unjaundiced eye. Again, getting angry might feel good in the short term, but it can have disastrous results long-term.
The client took our advice and the issue faded from the public eye soon enough, with all matters well-resolved. They weren’t wrong to feel angry, but when dealing with a public issue, their strategy had to go beyond that. It may be difficult, but more often than not it pays dividends.
So don’t get angry, at least not in public, even though every impulse inside you may be screaming for you to do that. It’s a far better idea to get strategic!