This post, called “Why You Should Stop Defending Your Work,” was published on Feb 20, 2013.
Let’s say you’re a hedge fund manager.
You know that many people in the public—even though they don’t fully understand what hedge funds are—hate your work. Some blame you for the financial collapse of 2008. A few even regard you as immoral.
So when you’re interviewed by reporters who ask you about the unpopularity of hedge funds, your inclination is to defend what you do for a living and aggressively rebut their charges.
It’s a natural instinct—but it’s also a mistake.
Too often, spokespersons defend themselves by saying something such as:
“Hedge funds weren’t the main cause of the financial collapse in 2008—many other factors were much more responsible. It’s important to remember that hedge funds are an important financial instrument that….”
But that’s a bad idea. Why? Because it’s much easier to defend yourself than to change the public’s perception of an entire industry they view as corrupt. Instead, you’d be much better served by aligning your answer to the existing concerns of the public:
“You know, there were a few bad hedge funds out there, and they gave all of us doing honest work a bad name. Their misbehavior infuriates me, because I’ve spent my entire career trying to do things the right way. I understand why people are upset about some of the bad apples in my industry—I am too.”
In the first answer, do you really think the spokesperson changed many minds? Do you think the public is likely to suddenly view that spokesperson as a “good guy” who “gets it?” Probably not. But they might if the spokesperson uses the second answer.
To be clear, there are legitimate times when you may choose to defend against unfair stereotypes about your industry. But that’s usually a longer-term proposition that could compromise the public’s view of your company, at least in the near-term. So ask yourself if defending your work is the smartest communications strategy—or whether you should let some other company take those hits for you instead.
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