There’s an expression: “tragedy plus time equals comedy”, and when a guy who portrayed the Marlboro Man in advertising died this year from a smoking-related illness, it was tragic, and also seemed like a punch line to a sad joke.
Eric Lawson had smoked since he was 14, and he smoked most of his life. Even though he had a hard time quitting, he told people to not smoke because he knew it was unhealthy (and he wasn’t the only Marlboro Man who died from a smoking-related illness, according to an article by Nate Jones in People magazine). Actually, I also created my own anti-smoking campaign when I was growing up because I constantly bothered my parents to quit, and they eventually did–and that was before the government promoted that smoking was harmful.
Whether the government is involved or not, it just goes to show that no matter what attractive images companies put out there, the truth will come out. It can seem like false advertising when a company has a message that is destructive or simply is not true.
Whatever you’re willing to commit to in your promotional messages, you should be genuine so that there won’t be any negative consequences. You can dress something up to make it pretty, but if it doesn’t have much substance and ends up misleading people, it will eventually catch up with you. Then you’ll have to spend a lot of time and energy on damage control.
Once a person expresses his or her true feelings on a subject, it’s impossible to take those words back, and the consequences become more extreme in the media.
That’s a lesson Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart probably learned when he spoke to student journalists. Brian Slodysko in the Chicago Sun-Timesreports Dart told the students, “Most of the people in my world hate the media,” and said even though he doesn’t hate them, “I feel sorry for them.”
He even criticized objectivity when journalists want to get both sides of a story: “one thing that always eats at me.”
Not only was his speech covered in the Sun-Times but it was posted on YouTube, and even though it hasn’t gotten a lot of hits, he obviously struck a negative cord with the people who are supposed to cover him fairly.
His spokesperson didn’t really help the situation either when she said he’s a “passionate guy” who wants to help aspiring journalists. What Dart should have done is said “sorry”, not assign a representative to explain away his opinions with an insincere statement.
It’s another example of how people have to think before they speak, and since attorneys work on sensitive cases, it makes it even more important. However, if you have said something you shouldn’t have, it’s better to offer a real apology so that people won’t think poorly of you. Also, it’s important to do it yourself, not issue a statement through your publicist. If you’re not sure how to go about it, talk to your public relations professional so that you can express yourself in an intelligent, positive way.
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