This is part 19 of a multi-part “More from media” series.
If you know something bad is coming, get in front of it as soon as you can and control the message. If you don’t control the situation, it can quickly control you.
In law school and as an attorney for 10 years, I learned the power of controlling a story and getting in front of unfavorable information. When you boil it down, it’s simply taking advantage of basic human nature. If you have brothers or sisters, you already know what I’m talking about.
When something got broken or someone ended up crying, the first story your parents heard was probably the one they acted on. If you were blamed in the first version, you probably got punished whether you were guilty or not. Your follow-up story was likely seen as an excuse or even a lie designed to get you out of trouble.
People tend to believe the first version of any story they hear as long as it’s reasonable. The second version might stir up some doubt, but it’s rare for the person hearing it to buy it hook, line and sinker.
This means you need to be telling the story first. It does not mean that you should lie about it — just that you should tell it first and try to control it. If you do a perfect job, there will be no second version. Whoever was on the other side will be satisfied that you’ve come clean and see no need to jump in. It will also make you look better to control the story in that way rather than to respond to a story told by someone else.
So how might this work in the fishing world? Let’s say it’s Day 2 of the Bassmaster Classic and you had a bit of a turf war with another competitor who believes you had no right to be on “his” water. If things got ugly, he might mention it on stage or to the tournament director.
If possible, you should tell your side first — to the tournament director, to the media, to the audience … everyone! Remember that they want to believe the first version they hear. Anything they hear later is just likely to confuse things or sound like a lie.
Tell your side, but be reasonable
Be careful in telling your side. You are not a saint, and no one believes you are a saint. You are a tough competitor in a very competitive business. You strive for every moral and legal advantage and ask for no quarter from anyone. No one is perfect.
Admit that there was an incident. Admit that there are two sides to the story. Confess that you can understand the other person’s view of the event. Then explain why your perspective is the right one and why your actions were reasonable. You bear no ill will toward your competition and have a great deal of respect for their talents and efforts.
Getting ahead of the story is always the right play, but you must do it with some finesse. No one is going to believe you if you take the position that you were 100 percent right and the other person was 100 percent wrong. It goes against our innate desire to be fair and to find a middle ground. Think about the last time a tournament buddy told you about some on-the-water transgression. When he related the story, did you think he was 100 percent in the right, or did you think he could have handled it better? Most of the time there’s a middle ground where reasonable people could differ. Set up camp in that middle ground, if you can.
Hopefully, you’ll never have any bad news to break, but if you do you need to be prepared. Don’t let the story get “out there” without your telling it first. Take charge of it.
- Good news is easy. If you deserve it, media and fans will find it for you. Bad news travels even faster. Stay ahead of it, and be the one to “break” it if you can.
- It’s human nature to believe the first version of events that we hear. With bad news, you need to be that first version.
- Don’t be unreasonable in telling your story. Only your staunchest supporters think you rode in on a white horse while wearing a white hat.
Tags: bad news, Bassmaster Classic, control, fair, incident, media, members, middle ground, more from media, tournaments, two sides to a story