Gov. Sanford Shows Why its Essential to be Honest with PR Team

South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford’s admission this afternoon of an extramarital affair was not only a tragic flaw in character, but a disservice to his public relations staffers that were left in the dark trying to cover for his disappearance.  His rambling press conference could be credited to a total lack of preparation for the tough questions that came at him, basically because his staff had no time to at all to properly prepare him. 

What Sanford did was not only betray his spouse but his public relations team as well.  For the past 4-5 days as doubts spread about his whereabouts his staff was left in the same position as the citizens of South Carolina, not knowing where Sanford was.  Then, once his Chief of Staff reached him he said he was on the Appalachian Trail.  This morning when landing in Atlanta, he admitted he was in Argentina but did not admit to the affair until his afternoon press conference.  At the event, he issued the following statement in regards to letting down his staff:

“I apologize to my staff,” Sanford said in a statement released after the 2 p.m. news conference. “I misled them about my whereabouts, and as a result the people of South Carolina believed something that wasn’t true. I want to make absolutely clear that over the past two days at no time did anyone on my staff intentionally relay false information to other state officials or the public at large. What they’ve said over the past two days they believed to be true, and I’m sorry to them for putting them in this position.”

Sanford’s plight should be a lesson to anyone in a position of authority, not just in government, but in business in general to make sure that they keep their public relations staffs in the know at all times. 

Sure, it may be essential to keep certain elements of a potential deal a secret for fear of it leaking out or in the case of a touchy personal situation like Sanford’s, concern about a personal embarrassment.  However, there is no excuse for lying to the individuals who have to ultimately put out the fires.

We live in a society that is now demanding transparency.  Executives with public relations teams need to recognize that this needs to extend to them for the communications process to work.

It is tough enough having to properly communicate a client’s message without the person or company we are communicating for setting us up for failure. 

Tom Cosentino

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