Ignominious is how one might describe the latest Yahoo mishap, one of a long line of failures and foibles the company has endured over the last few years. The experience is rife with teaching moments for managements of traditional companies and soon-to-launch startups. Fact is, there are lessons for everyone if we just take the time to think and learn. I have given it a great deal of thought since the latest fiasco began and here is my take on avoiding a Yahoo moment.
1. "I am what I am" was a well-worn phrase from the Popeye cartoon series of the 1960s. Be who you are, because that is the only person you can be. Everyone else is spoken for.
2. Be proud of your track record and accomplishments. They have served your employers well and allowed you to be a talented ___________. You fill in the blank.
3. Avoid the temptation to embellish. Perhaps the biggest teachable moment is this: Say or write only what is the truth. Gilding the lily never got anyone anywhere, save maybe a fat fine or time in the hoosegow.
4. "Just the facts, ma'am." State what is and not what is not. You need never defend or explain your words if they are based on fact.
5. Be your own editor. Always check and recheck what is said and written by you or on your behalf. Ignorance is no excuse and will not save you when the fact checkers come calling. If it is about you, insure that what is said or written is the honest truth. The onus is on you, not your staff, the headhunter, the PR person, HR, or your personal assistant. The only time you need not check is if it is your obit.
6. Apologize and mean it. If you do get caught in a situation of obfuscation, a misnomer, factual untruth, or Yahoo moment, provide the facts, admit the mistake, and be sorry for the error. An honest mistake will not hurt you. Hiding it will.
Gerry Corbett is the PRJobCoach at prjobcoach.com and CEO of Redphlag LLC, a strategy consultancy. He has served four decades in senior communications roles at Fortune 100 firms and earlier in his career in aerospace and computer engineering with NASA. He has a B.A. in public relations from San Jose State University and is a member of the International Advertising Association, National Investor Relations Institute; Arthur Page Society, National Association of Science Writers, and International Coaching Federation.
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