Published on Thursday, April 14, 2016 at 12:30 p.m.
by Hannah MacInnis.
The law office of Mossack Fonseca, a Panamanian firm, recently had a leak of 11.5 million documents connected to people in more than 200 countries including terrorists. It is said to be the largest leak in offshore history. This public relations disaster is known as the Panama Papers and lasted from 1977 to December 2015.
Why are the Panama Papers relevant to PR? The Panama Papers are something of a PR nightmare to those involved because of the sheer fact that reputations of many leaders and business owners alike have been ruined.
The most notorious leader involved in the Panama Papers, Vladimir Putin, shuffled around $2 billion in various accounts – all ending at the law firm. Other easily recognizable people involved include Jackie Chan, Simon Cowell and Lionel Messi.
“There are many things to be said of the political world, but to say it does not have its problems is definitely not one of them; it is all about how to handle yourself,” said Dane Waters, political consultant in Birmingham, Alabama. “I think this is one of those trying times where you can either let this situation define you and give up, or you can try your hardest to make it even at least a little better.”
There are various solutions and responses in the eye of a PR storm, but some of the most important strategies, if executed properly, can relieve problems.
Frequently asked questions
When a bomb as big as the Panama Papers drops, a very useful tool can be an FAQ page. There are always going to be a lot of questions and having an FAQ already in place can help filter those concerns.
As this legal process continues, many questions will come up, but if there are basic answers for people to turn to, it will shorten the tedious process of repetition.
“The answer you give to a question when in the face of something as large as the Panama Papers is extremely important; that is where you make your answers count,” said Madison Schmaedeke, account executive at Jasculca Terman. “You need to make sure that you are sincere, yet getting your point across.”
One should not simply hide from the world when involved in a situation like the Panama Papers. A leader or business owner should be present and trying to restore his or her reputation.
A trusted leader is a good leader, and in a situation as severe as the Panama Papers, trust is exactly what said leader is trying to earn back. Appearance is everything, and there is much to be said for a good reputation versus a bad one.
Prepare your peers
When analyzing the aftermath of the Panama Papers, one should prepare all parties involved for questions they might be asked; therefore, they should each have statements on hand to use when tough interview questions arise or when at a loss for words.
“You definitely have to make sure there is a general consensus among your group of people because if there is not one, then you will look unorganized and weak. Being on the same page is everything,” Schmaedeke said.
The last thing anyone in this situation should do is overreact or become paranoid. Such reactions will only hinder the reputation rebuilding process, remember, there is PR in just about everything.
It’s inevitable: The Panama Papers are going to shape each party involved either positively or negatively, depending on how well they respond. What is in store for those involved in the Panama Papers after this discovery? That is something only time and careful actions can tell.