Don't Equivocate; Tell Your Story

Failing to tell your story fully and accurately in a controversy is like hiding in plain view, just waiting for someone else to tell your story, and not in a flattering way.The nagging question that won't go away is whether it is too risky to tell your side of a controversial story before someone else tells theirs. It is a question that has already been answered and punctuated by the realities of social media and 24/7 news cycles.

Hesitating to share your narrative leaves the door wide open for your opponent or antagonist to share his first. That automatically puts you on the defensive. You have to tell your story around the corners and crevices of your opponent's story.

"I know, but I don't want to ignite a story that may never see the light of day if I say nothing" is a common concern. The "lie low" strategy has a long and pocked history. It works sometimes, or at least for some time. Eventually the dirt under the rug is unearthed.

The unearthing process has become a whole lot more prevalent with the advent of smartphones that can capture your words or actions when you think nobody is listening or watching. They can be accidental captures or intentional, but when shared on social media they can become embarrassing moments for the whole world to see. 

Instead of fretting over whether to tell your story, spend your energy deciding how best to tell it. What should you say that will convey your facts in a credible context? Where should you say it? What additional information or links can you provide that reinforce your story? 

Getting your story right is a much more productive — and ultimately beneficial — task. It will help you recall critical facts, assemble the sequence of events and summarize the significance of what happened. Fact-checking will buff away fuzziness and erase inaccuracies in what you say. Writing down your story allows you to sharpen your points and tighten your phrases, including finding that always elusive sound bite.

This kind if disciplined preparation yields results, whether you share your story right away or later on. You will be ready if you get a call out of the blue from a reporter or spot a mention on social media that demands a response. And you will be ready if you seek out a reporter or blogger to tell your story.

The risk to focus on is not being prepared and being caught off guard. In today's media environment, it is hard to catch up. Just ask VA Secretary Eric Shinsecki.

Telling your story first is no guarantee your side of the story will prevail. But you have a much better chance of holding your own in a public debate or controversy if your facts are on the table and not just in the back of your mind.