The "I'm Sorry" Defense
We regularly advise our clients to always be well prepared for any interaction that could potentially be reported publicly about yourself or your company. We tell them that really good reporters are never off duty and the off-hand conversation on a plane or in line at Starbucks could be captured and reported. It pays to be cautious. We haven't gone so far as to warn them to beware reporters setting up sting operations, which is advice that could have helped the Duchess of York, Sarah Ferguson. This morning she had to do damage control for a humiliating video capturing her attempt to sell connections with her ex-husband, Prince Andrew, for a British reporter posing as a UK business executive. The particular sensitivity surrounding this is that it appears to be influence peddling charge due to Prince Andrew's role as a UK Trade Envoy.
The unethical approach of the publication aside, the Duchess's apology this morning -- which one assumes the British Royals demanded -- furthered the embarrassment, however:
“I very deeply regret the situation and the embarrassment caused,” she said. “It is true that my financial situation is under stress. However, that is no excuse for a serious lapse in judgment, and I am very sorry that this has happened.”
The incident revealed to the public Ferguson's money problems and the surprisingly stingy divorce settlement she received from Prince Andrew.
Although the proffered half-million pounds wasn't real, one assumes the publicity surrounding Ferguson's latest 15 minutes of fame will net her some lucrative offers or, at the very least, a better settlement from Prince Andrew to encourage her to stay out of the limelight in the future. The phrase "penny-wise, pound foolish" seems apropos, don't you think?
And to add another entry in the "what were they thinking" department: the PR firm, that shall remain nameless -- whose case study about BP and social responsibility is one of the first items that appears when you "Google" BP and PR. That's something that someone should have taken care of when the recent oil spill occurred and the crisis began swirling, literally and figuratively. It's a good reminder for all of us that whatever is posted on the Web can live forever and pop up during the most unexpected times.