Elliot Spitzer Sex Scandal: 5 Quick Lessons for the CEO

by Sandra Fathi on March 11, 2008

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Gov. Eliot Spitzer and wife SildaNY Governor Elliot Spitzer has been linked to a sex ring as a client. The story broke in today’s New York Times and has been the subject of news reports and tabloid gossip throughout the day. His behavior, although scandalous, is not uncommon. All too often, people in power seem to feel that they are above the law and not accountable for their behavior. It’s not clear whether there is some sort of character flaw of the wildly successfully overachiever and/or politician that causes this behavior, or if it is the position of power itself that encourages it.

Although most CEOs will never be embroiled in this type of scandal, they can on occasion begin to show signs that they are too good for the constituents that the PR firm cares most about - the media. Here are five quick tips to prevent top executives from becoming drunk with power and prevent future public embarrassment

1. Always be gracious and accommodating. No one likes a difficult CEO. Some good ol’ manners go a long way in charming a reporter.

2. Be patient. Don’t expect reporters to know your industry. Take the time to understand their knowledge of the industry, your company and market. This can help guide the conversation and allow you to put your discussion in the proper context.

3. Treat people with respect, and never burn a bridge. Journalists wield the power of the pen. If you upset or offend an editor or blogger, they can immediately share it with their readers (i.e. your prospective customers). In addition, today’s  junior copy editor in an obscure trade pub might be a future editor of a column in a national business publication.

4. Remember that the reporter is doing you a favor, and not vice versa. On occasion, cocky executives start to feel that they are doing the media a favor by answering their questions. Nothing could be further from the truth. Journalists are giving you an outlet to advertise your services or products, an opportunity to communicate with prospective clients, a forum to discuss your views and a platform to position and brand your company.

5. Be honest and transparent. You don’t have to disclose corporate secrets, but you should be forthright and honest in every instance. Deceiving or misleading the media will always come back to haunt you.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Leslie 03.14.08 at 9:50 am

Thought of your post when I read this Observer story last night:

Eliot Spitzer, Public Relations Ace

The Spitzer camp didn’t start reaching out to PR/crisis communications firms until Tuesday (the day after his apology press conference).

Lesson: hire a PR firm when you’re still getting good publicity. Don’t wait for the ____ to hit the ___!

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