Do This, Don’t Do That

Do Admit and Take Responsibility for Your Mistakes: National Football League Referee Ed Hochuli broke the hearts of San Diego Chargers fans two weeks when he blew a call near the end of a game against the Denver Broncos. The mistake allowed the Broncos to win on a last-second touchdown pass, and fans responded by flooding Hochuli’s inbox with nasty messages and using sports radio shows to stone the referee verbally. How did Hochuli respond? By replying personally to upset fans, admitting his mistake and apologizing.

The funny thing about this incident is that Hochuli was likely the only on-the-field sports official that any decent-sized segment of the population would have recognized prior to the fateful game. He’s built a cult following due to his ripped physique and stern calls. He’s also widely considered the best official in the game, so his mistake was surprising.

Hochuli is a lawyer by day; thus he understands how to deal with crisis. What fans really appreciated, however, was his humanity and honesty. Once word spread that Hochuli was going out of his way to apologize, fans calmed down and began writing him letters of support. They then turned their ire towards the NFL’s replay rules, which wouldn’t allow Hochuli to review the call. That, my friends, is how to spin negative news away from you and onto someone else (even if that was not Hochuli’s intention).

Don’t Trade on Inside Information: Matthew Zachowski, the former CEO of Intermarket Communications, agreed to pay a $395,000 fine to settle charges that he traded on inside information. Zachowski’s firm represented Eurex Frankfurt AG and prepared the German exchange company’s announcement that it had sealed a deal to acquire International Securities Exchange Holdings Inc.

The PR man reportedly bought shares of International Securities Exchange Holdings a day before the announcement was made and then sold the stock for a 46% profit the following day. Zachowski neither admitted nor denied guilt when he agreed to pay the fine to the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Trading on insider information is illegal and, believe it or not, the SEC is pretty good at tracking down people who do it. PR people often find themselves in possession of material non-public information about publicly traded companies, and the urge to make a quick buck can be strong.

If you ever have any questions about trading a stock because of your position, consult a securities lawyer before conducting a transaction.

Do Keep Your Resume Updated: In case you haven’t noticed, the entire U.S. financial system is in disarray and the problems are beginning to spread overseas. Major financial institutions are laying off workers, and companies such as Hewlett-Packard, which recently completed a major acquisition, are quickly looking to trim costs. The unemployment rate in the U.S. is at a five-year high and the National Retail Federation expects holiday sales to grow at the slowest rate in six years.

A government bailout of the financial industry may help us down the road, but the pain may be felt for years. A similar effort by Nordic governments in the early 1990s helped stabilize the economies of Finland, Norway and Sweden, but unemployment rates in those countries rose from as low as 1.6% to as high as 19.9% in just four years.

I remember the market crash of 1987 (my grandfather was a stockbroker and I was already investing then) and how the recession of the early 1990s virtually killed my father’s commercial construction business. I was an active participant in the dot-com bubble and burst, and I lived through 9/11 in New York. With that said, this is the least optimistic I’ve ever been about the economy and its prospects for the next five-year period. Keep your resume updated and look for strong companies and firms with proven track records.

Don’t Talk About Your Former Clients: Heather Mills, the ex-wife of Paul McCartney, is reportedly suing her former publicist. Mills is seeking the equivalent of about $465,000 and claiming breach of confidence. The activist and philanthropist says that ex-publicist Michele Elyzabeth maligned her when the pair had a falling out, spreading falsehoods in the media and claiming she was owed money.

While you may hate your former clients (and your current clients), it’s unprofessional – and potentially a civil offense – to dish the dirt on them. As a PR rep, you garner intimate insight into the lives of people and the operations of businesses. You sign a contract agreeing to certain terms, one of which is typically that you don’t publicly malign your client during and after the contract. A PR person who trashes a former client is someone who will have a hard time finding work.

This article, written by Ben Silverman, originally appeared in PR Fuel (, a free weekly newsletter from eReleases (, the online leader in affordable press release distribution. To subscribe to PR Fuel, visit:

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