Friday, October 9, 2009

Kudos to Letterman

I can no longer can call it a “bombshell” since it’s been a week since David Letterman went on national television and came clean about having sex with some of his staffers.  Perhaps the most unbelievable part of this story was not that he was extorted, not that he had sex while having a girlfriend, not that Robert Halderman actually tried to cash the 2 million dollar check.  Oh no, it was the response of his audience that intrigued me the most. 

You saw it…..his audience laughed at what they thought was a punch line, but this was no joke ….just one look at the strain and lines in Letterman’s forehead and one could easily see that this was no laughing matter.  

Despite his obvious stress, I say “kudos to Letterman” who had probably one of his most difficult appearances in his career.  To come clean before the whole nation is something that we don’t see very often.  Actually, I don’t even remember the last celeb, public figure or politician who has had the guts to do it.

Probably not even ten years ago, this type of transparency would mean the beginning to the end of a career. But honesty goes a long way today, and I immediately thought: What if more people, companies and products actually communicated this way?   Why do people think that the admission of error or bad judgment is equivalent to death?

And what if people stopped lying and stopped the cover-up? 

Everyone can learn from Letterman’s example.  He wanted to ensure that  he wasn’t going to be extorted again, so he did the right thing: he shaped the message instead  around  being a victim. Companies today should do the same. Some already have, using social media to listen and respond to them. They are transparent about what they need to improve.

Others still pretend “it never happened” and then have to lamely apologize when it’s proved that “yes, it did!”  Fact is: today, people will find out about your mistakes and talk about it. They will shape the message themselves unless you are transparent about it. And you know what? If you’re honest, just like Letterman, you will even get applause, and you won’t become a neurotic organization, government, company or city that no one can trust.

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