Monday Memo: Bad News

By Holland Cooke


BLOCK ISLAND, RI — And the hits just keep-on comin.’ “Hits,” literally! For a couple days, that Chris Rock-Will Smith moment upstaged even the horrors in Ukraine. And now the wife of a sitting Supreme Court justice is in hot water. Infamy is nothing new. Remember the congressman who said that “in cases of ‘legitimate rape,’ the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down?” Or when John Lennon said, “We’re more popular than Jesus?”

Who’s next…YOU?

As I recently chronicled here, I speak from personal experience when I remind that notoriety can find any of us, at any moment. So to follow-up last week’s column about exploiting good news, this guidance about handling the gaffes inevitable in talk radio.

When your station stumbles:

  1. Act quickly. The sooner you confront a negative story, the sooner it will be over. Responding as quickly to negative stories as you do to positive ones enhances your credibil­ity.
  2. Be honest. Hiding embarrassing information or lying will do more damage than damage control. Never stonewall, and avoid “rolling disclosure.” As several U.S. presidents have learned, the cover-up can be worse than the crime.
  3. Tell your side of the story. Use specifics, and detail what corrective action “has already been taken.” You’ll sound responsible and in-control.
  4. Respond in kind. If the issue is emotional, don’t sound like a cold, unemotional Mr. Spock. “I have a teenage daughter myself, and I know how much our host’s comments must have hurt.”
  5. Turn lemons into lemonade, possibly with an appropriate charitable contribution or promotion.

Holland Cooke is author of the E-book “Multiply Your Podcast Subscribers, Without Buying Clicks,” available exclusively from Talkers books and “Spot-On: Commercial Copy Points That Earned The Benjamins,” a FREE download here. HC is a consultant working at the intersection of broadcasting and the Internet. Follow him on Twitter @HollandCooke