Should Fekitoa have gone public?

Posted February 11, 2016

Should Malakai Fekitoa have shared his anger problem with his 173000 Instagram followers? Opinion is mixed. There is no blanket rule on this, but a number of things must be taken into account before deciding what to do.

The place where it should be the only option is as a pre-emptive strike. I’m not suggesting that is why Fekitoa did it, but if you think someone will go public against you, you’re best to get on the front foot and release it yourself. Many leaders have failed to do this to their detriment.

In a nutshell, the theory is that if you release negative information about yourself, people and the media don’t treat you as badly as they do when you need to react to someone else’s allegations.

This has clearly happened with Fekitoa, regardless of whether this was a pre-emptive strike or not. He has received nothing but masses of positive feedback for his post, and the apology that went along with it.

The other consideration here is how people react to a perceived weakness or mistake. What is often forgotten is that people usually judge you more on how to respond to the mistake, rather than the fact you made it in the first place.

This can clearly be seen in this case, with the overwhelming support for Fekitoa. It’s also evident in crisis situations. Companies that communicate quickly, show empathy for victims and demonstrate what they are doing to fix the situation often come out unscathed

The decision to go public out of honesty, rather than a pre-emptive strike, is harder to decide. It’s not always necessary and can come back to bit you.  If the Fekitoa story is now at an end, its shown how honesty and a genuine apology can go a long way.

The only risk in doing this is the possibility of opening a can of worms. I must state that I’m not suggesting this will happen in this case. But sometimes it can lead to people coming forward who otherwise would have stayed quiet. It can also see the news media start hunting for examples of the behaviour.

For more on my media training and crisis communication planning, contact [email protected] or 029 200 8555.

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