Sinister Smugness Syndrome
Location: A large company in the midst of a major crisis
The situation: A large company is in the midst of a major and worsening crisis. They are one of the companies that has hired the large PR firm run by the evil PR manager Damian Detritus. As the situation spins out of control, instead of acknowledging the problem and calling press conferences that deal with the situation, Detritus appears in front of the news cameras and emits an air of smugness and dismissiveness to the press on behalf of the company. Instead of answering their questions honestly and accurately, or putting the CEO in front of the press to acknowledge the problem, outline a solution and admit that a mistake was made, Detritus instructs management to ignore the questions from the press, act aggressive against them when questions are asked, and give off a feeling of arrogance that the company is right and any other suggestion is preposterous. As such, the public’s feelings towards the company plummet, and as evidence is shown by members of the press that the crisis is getting worse, the problem compounds itself. The stock price of the company begins to fall and the entire corporation looks like it might be falling apart before the eyes of the public and stockholders.
The solution: The Spotlight watches the situation as it unfolds on his television and in the newspapers and news websites he reads. His fury grows as he watched Detritus mishandling yet another press conference and he decides it is time to act. Ducking into a hidden closet in his apartment, he emerges wearing his Spotlight costume and his Ring of Truth. Flying through the air he lands on top of Detritus at the press conference. He uses his superhuman strength to send Detritus and his lackeys scampering for cover.
He then walks into the major corporation and sits management down to talk to them. Working with superhuman speed he outlines a plan where the company acknowledges that mistakes have been made and then outlines a plan to make things right. He quickly gathers the press, again, and this time puts the CEO front and center. The CEO reads a prepared statement created by The Spotlight that admits that the company made a mistake, but then quickly outlines the plans to make things right and prevent such mistakes from happening again. The CEO, with The Spotlight by his side to help, then honestly answers questions from the press. He does so humbly and without arrogance and smugness, making the company, for the first time, appear human and understanding that the problems they have caused have affected people.
The Spotlight stays on board during the crisis. He helps coach the management on how to appear humble and accurate before the press without giving too much away. He helps put the proper news stories in the proper publications that show the efforts the company is making to make things right with the situation. He writes press releases that get picked up by the press and that further spread the word that the company is fixing the problem and has made improvements that will prevent problems from occurring again. The communications plan spreads throughout the company, including social media efforts and internal communications.
Eventually the public’s perception of the company begins to change. They begin to accept his new image of the company and know that there are real people working in the offices that have their concerns at heart. The stock prices rise and investors are, once again, happy as public trust increases in their products and services. The company accepts this new openness and the company becomes a trusted organization that keeps consumers in the forefront of their minds rather than profits.
The Spotlight says: When a crisis arises, it is tempting to circle the wagons and try to fight off the bad press. This can appear, to the general public, as arrogance and as if the company is out of touch with the rest of the world and what is happening within the crisis itself. The best bet is to get in front of the problem by acknowledging it, accepting it and then outlining how you plan to fix it and ensure future problems do not crop up. People understand that mistakes occur, but they want a company that acknowledges when they are made rather than one that appears arrogant or smug in the face of mounting evidence of a major problem.