I am not sure if you subscribe to Fortune's CEO Daily. However, in today's edition, Fortune Editor Alan Murray wrote a great story about CEOs and companies speaking up and speaking out when they come "under attack" by the media. See Companies Strike Back.
When your reputation is at stake and the facts are on your side, CEOs should speak up and take a stand against news that is factually in correct. If the optics look bad they should still (respectfully) confront the story and deal with it directly. If litigation is involved or the potential of litigation and the reputation of the company or its' executives are at stake, I would still not take the advice of legal counsel and speak up. Often times your personal and or corporate reputation is more important than any legal outcome.
Murray shares the example of what Johnson & Johnson [NYSE: JNJ] CEO Alex Gorksy did after Reuters published a story claiming the company knew it had traces of asbestos in its baby powder for years. Reuters even included a link to a number of legal documents concerning this matter.
Johnson & Johnson defended its' reputation and posted a video of Gorsky denying the claim and sharing information about the issue, along with other information about the "Safety of Talc," along with other facts you may not know about their product and information on a recent court ruling on this same issue.
I do not represent Johnson & Johnson, but I work with other value-based companies that have been around for decades with a history of doing the right thing while still making a profit. According to their website, their credo challenges them "to put the needs and well-being of the people we serve first." They have a history of diversity & inclusion, focusing on empowering women, and committed to supporting our veterans. (#BeThere). While they are focused on making a profit, they are also focused on doing the "right thing".
Murray reminds of this when in 1982, it pulled all its Tylenol off of store shelves after someone injected cyanide into a few pills, killing three people in Chicago, which has been the poster-crisis for crisis management training for decades.
CEOs are starting to speak up and they should. They need to step out from behind the desk and become more visible and vocal on issues that matter, not just to them, but to their employees who have to go home to their spouses and children every day and tell them what they did at work, to their customers, investors, suppliers.
Every company in every industry faces its own set of risks. Today, it is not a matter of if a something will happen, it is a question of when will it happen to me? Yet most companies are unprepared to deal with a crisis when attacked.
To protect the health and safety of your clients, customers and staff while at the same time, protecting your company’s reputation, you can’t afford to be caught off guard. Crisis management is the process used to prepare for, respond to, and recover from emergencies in order to minimize any damage a crisis may occur to one’s reputation.
While CEOs may be gaining the confidence to speak up, they also need to proactively working to limit their risk and exposure while working to enhance their reputation in the public eye.