Simon Henry may have been anticipating 15 minutes of fame when he was interviewed by NBR, but then it seems he had a brain fart, went off script and felt the need to insult Nadia Lim with deeply unacceptable and downright misogynistic comments.
He's not the first and he won't be the last to trade fame for shame. It's a good earner for us in the reputation business.
But while the furore is raging, it's convenient to remember there are PR 101s to avoid and recover from foot-in-mouth moments. Full disclosure, Pead launched My Food Bag and it is still a client, the co-founders are personal friends of mine and we continue to work with the Robinsons and Theresa Gattung at Tend.
1. When you stuff up, whether it's a thoughtless slip-up or your massive train smash, you get up, dress up and front up. You do the decent thing and say you are sorry. Never underestimate the power of a sincere mea culpa. You front with a prepared statement and you apologise to everyone you have offended with your Neanderthal comments. In Simon's case I would include Nadia, women of Asian descent, staff, their families, your family, your board, your shareholders, and the public at large in your apology and make it a good one. In my view, he should liberate some of his $600 million on a great speech writer because he will be judged on the words.
(Late Friday, DGL's board issued a statement saying Henry had apologised to Lim; Lim told the Herald he had not. DGL shares fell 20c or 4.94 per cent to $3.85 in Friday trading, wiping $54m from its value, after a 10c slide the day before. The NZX50 fell 1.18 per cent.)
2. You do not hide in a hole, or behind staff who are forced to make excuses for your silence. Trust me on this - you need to show some courage and front up in the bad times as well as the good. Show some leadership.
3. Don't hurl insults at one of New Zealand's most popular and well-known personalities, a woman who needs only one name. And if you do, expect to be pelted with a quarry load of stones in return. Nadia's fan club is BIG and we will come to her defence.
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4. If you choose to draw your sword in a public battle, you had better make sure your house is in order.
5. If you are going to be the front for your company, acquaint yourself with your group's code of conduct, which ironically in DGL's case states: "In order to have an inclusive workplace, discrimination, harassment, vilification and victimisation cannot and will not be tolerated."
6. Incidentally, it may pay to consider who your shareholders are. As novel as it may seem, women have their own income, and many of us control the purse strings as well as the apron strings. We are versatile like that. And we also decide where we want our hard-earned dollars invested. If it looks like misogyny, sounds like misogyny and smells like misogyny, it's misogyny. You could put your code of conduct on a billboard, but I will be guided more by your actions than empty words.
So all the best with fixing your reputation – I'd love to offer the services of Pead but it's a conflict of interest with our clients and friends Nadia, Cecilia Robinson and Tend and My Food Bag.
But if you do the decent thing, you can come back from most things. A big donation to SheEO will help. It's an organisation that supports female-led start-ups and creates a space for women to thrive on their own terms.
Now that would win you some redemption and keep you on the right side of local founder Theresa Gattung – you may have heard of her, another phenomenal woman in business.
Deborah Pead is founder and executive chair of PR firm Pead.