When it comes to advising organisations faced with a PR crisis on how to preserve their reputation, I always advocate truth and transparency. The way I see it, there's no point in burying, hiding or downright lying because you will always, always be found out.
And that will be more damaging than anything else to trust in your brand.
But sometimes there are times when saying it the way it is – however tempting – just isn't the right thing to do.
That's why a couple of news stories grabbed my attention this week. I must admit I smiled as I read “Dad slams easyJet for ‘leaving sick daughter lying on the floor’ after being refused flight” and then “Teacher 'told mortified schoolgirl, 14, to control her periods in front of class and refused to let her go to the toilet'”
You always know what’s coming when you see these headlines. Read a bit deeper into the articles and another side to the stories rapidly emerges.
Certainly, if you read the comments sections of any of the papers who covered both stories, you’ll see that 99% of public sentiment is cynical of the motives of both parents, and supportive of the airline and school.
The problem is, sometimes you just can’t call bullsh*t on something that clearly is, no matter tempting it must be.
The only response easyJet could possibly give under the circumstances (you simply can’t call out someone playing the sick kid card) was to be as touchy feely as possible, put the family up in a hotel, give them new flights, and then get in touch to offer the ubiquitous “gesture of goodwill".
Whereas the question most people would want addressed is why the father videoed his daughter lying on the ground rather than helping her himself and why he was so desperate to get her onto a plane with its limited oxygen supply if she’s just had a major asthma attack?
Oh, and if she is, as he says, “really self-conscious about her illness” then why did he want her plastered all over the papers?
As for Rednock School in Dursley, Gloucestershire, you only have to feel sympathy as Maisie-Rae Adams and her mother Lauren (36 or 46 depending on which paper you read) posed the classic ‘look as glum and dumb as possible’ pics that we all love to see.
We read how Maisie-Rae said “she 'had no choice' but to storm out of the classroom” – that’s storm out, not walk out or discreetly slip out.
With a male headmaster, David Alexander, the school was always onto a loser here. But he did say the situation “was not as has been interpreted” – which was brave of him, although he wasn’t able to go into details.
The moral of this story. Always tell the truth in a PR crisis, except when the truth just hurts too much.