Thursday, 20 August 2009

Credibility Gap

This week, Brett Favre shocked and amazed the sports world by announcing his un-retirement from football. Again.

Obviously, I’m being facetious. He did shock and amaze the sports world the first time he un-retired. This time, it fanned a series of searing stories focused on his credibility gap.

Favre, best known as the longtime quarterback for the Green Bay Packers, has enjoyed an immensely successful career in professional football, building a reputation both on and off the field as a man of character.
Unfortunately, his retirement-related flip-flops from the past few years put all that at risk.

It should come as no surprise that the media is gleefully covering the fact that Favre has contradicted himself. Reporters always cover contradictions or untruths. And they rarely cover it the way the person in question would have liked.

It offers every one of us a valuable lesson. Not matter what role you play in life, it’s important to say what you mean and mean what you say. And only talk about what you actually know.

Clearly, life’s situations change and none of us can predict the future with any certainty. But we can control how we portray our plans and our decisions.

In Brett Favre’s case, when he unequivocally told reporters in February that his retirement was for good this time, he boxed himself in. He could have said, “At this moment, I do not see myself returning to football” to reduce the future credibility gap should he change his mind. Unfortunately, he left himself open to charges of flip-flopping. Again.

In my PR 101 course, I recommend avoiding words like “Never” or “Always.” Do not fall into the trap of predicting the future or speculating about what lies ahead, a favorite tactic of reporters. Instead, talk about the current situation as you know it. Period. Smart decisions now will help you avoid falling into the credibility gap in the future.

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