Not so long ago it used to be the case that when you were contacted by a powerful journalist and asked to respond to potentially damaging allegations at short notice, all you could do was to try and make the best of a bad situation. Usually caught on the back foot, it was a race against time as you scrambled to piece together your best defence from whatever facts you could pull together in the given time before the publisher’s imposed deadline. Blogging and Twitter (micro-blogging) have changed all that, as was powerfully illustrated on Friday in the case of Edward Staite, an independent communications consultant who specialises in crisis communications. Staite was the subject of a Sunday Times investigative sting, because of his previous work with the UK’s Conservative political party.
You can read about what happened next in a full account of events covered by Staite himself on his blog here and by two others who have written about what happened and drawn some valuable communications lessons (Communicationdraft.net here and Contently managed here). The upshot was that the original article The Sunday Times was planning went unpublished.
Before Twitter and blogs, Staite would have been defenceless. But these tools gave him a powerful, rapid rebuttal system that he was able to use with great effect to defend his reputation.
At the heart of this saga is transparency and speed. Staite was open and quickly offered full disclosure rather than having the information dragged out of him. He has invested time and effort building his social network and over the weekend that effort paid back in spades. His reputation emerges enhanced whereas The Sunday Times Insight team is left looking, at best, slightly silly.