Seriously, it’s OK to do the right thing.
We are living in a time in which the lines between right and wrong seem to be shifting or blurred. Sometimes, though, wrong is wrong, making seemingly hard decisions much easier.
Recent news is filled with the resignation of the “John” from Papa John’s. John Schnatter recently stepped down for using a racial slur (the N-word) and discussing violence against a racial minority (lynchings) in a media training conference call. The agency conducting the media training resigned the account as a result. (Here’s an article from Forbes on the matter.)
The irony of ironies here is that the media training exercise was, “intended as a role-playing exercise for Schnatter on avoiding racially charged mishaps in the future,” according to this CBS News article.
This hits home because Vehr Communications often trains spokespersons, including c-suite executives, CEO’s and board chairs, for various situations including media interviews. Admittedly, we’ve never resigned a client for something as egregious and disgusting as Schnatter’s hurtful and insensitive words.
We have, though, resigned an account when a client lied to our team members and proved to be dishonest in dealing with us. We have also refused, on multiple occasions, to accept a client because they represented a perspective or point of view that made us, as individuals and as a company, extremely uncomfortable.
Resigning an account or not accepting a client is a hard decision. In each case, we concluded that it wasn’t really about the client. It was about us and what we believed.
We didn’t want to work with a dishonest client – one who created almost daily stress because he lied and blamed our team members rather than accept responsibility for his mistakes.
I am sure that Papa John’s agency concluded that they didn’t want to work with an admittedly prestigious and, likely, large fee-paying client that was so visibly associated with racism and hatred.
We didn’t want to engage with certain cause-related opportunities because we knew we couldn’t assemble a team that believed in the cause.
Did we walk away because it could have damaged our reputation? No. In the end, we walked away from business because we felt what our client did or represented was wrong.
Don’t get me wrong. Our reputation is critically important. We all know reputations are hard-earned and easily lost.
That said, I know that a part of our own reputation is built on a willingness to accept wrong as wrong and walk away from business.
Kudos to Papa John’s former agency. It’ll be alright.