Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Reputation Management: Underage Sex Scandal Singapore

In court cases, the first (and natural) instinct of those being prosecuted is to hide from the media.  This is done with the hope of keeping ones’ picture and name from being publicized so as to protect ones’ reputation.

While the “hiding” approach is a viable option in some court cases, it is unfortunately not applicable in high-profile cases when media interest is intense.  In high-profile court cases, the media is likely to provide extensive coverage and reporters will pursue any and all leads to scoop the story.  Under these circumstances, it is inevitable that the accused’s name and picture will be revealed and my advice to clients is to fight their natural instinct to hide and go on the offensive.

Taking the offensive will provide the client the following 2 advantages:

a.            Dictate and Frame the Story.  By going on the offensive, the client gets to dictate the time and place of the story.  This is important as the client can choose a favorable time to tell his story.  Additionally, but coming forward, the client will be able to choose a “sympathetic” reporter who will then enable the client to more effectively tell his side of the story.  In contrast, if the client avoids the media, the media will report whatever they can uncover including inaccuracies that may be detrimental to the client.

b.            Position for Post-Trial.  In some court cases, the client’s reputation will be damaged no matter what the legal outcome.  In such cases, I advise client to set aside their desire to protect their current reputation, and to focus on developing a new post-trial reputation.  Using the underage sex scandal as an example, seeking continued employment post-trial is a definite priority.  To do this, the client humanize themselves by portraying themselves as persons of character who made a mistake.  Former principal Lee Lip Hong’s and Howard Shaw’s decision to admit their mistake, take their punishment and move on with their lives earned the respect of many and the positive spin will, in my opinion, facilitate their reintegration into society.

In short, protecting ones’ reputation in a court case is sometimes not about hiding from the media.  In circumstances where hiding from the media is not an option, going on the offensive is a better strategy than waiting for the proverbial other shoe to fall.

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