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Entrepreneurs never lose in the court of public opinion

  • By Alan Knott-Craig
  • September 7, 2015

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump gestures and declares "You're fired!" at a rally in Manchester, New Hampshire, June 17, 2015. REUTERS/Dominick Reuter


Gracie Jiu Jitsu is a style of martial arts that makes the defender invulnerable to aggression. According to its founding family, there is simply no flaw in the defensive shield, which in turn gives masters of the style the confidence they need to be magnanimous, knowing they’re impervious to attack.


That’s all good when dealing with physical aggression, but how do you defend yourself in the court of public opinion?


Every entrepreneur must confront the risk of great success, and the concomitant glare of the limelight.


When the going is good, the limelight is warm and fuzzy. But there will always be detractors, and any entrepreneur worth the title will make mistakes and fail, attracting criticism.


So how do you learn the Gracie-style of defence in PR? In other words, how do you become Donald Trump? Immune to bad press at worst. Benefit from bad press at best.


First, willpower and sheer force are useless in the court of public opinion. Also, self-defence is irrelevant.


When it comes to defending yourself, what you say carries little credibility. Marshall McLuhan said it all, “The medium is the message”.


These are the key steps to black belt in Donald Trump Jiu Jitsu:


1. Control the narratuve


Sarah Rice gave me one of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever had: “Control the narrative. A story loves a vacuum. If you want your story to win, you must get it out there first.”


Its difficult for your enemies to taint you when the real story is already in the public domain.


Why do you think politicians always publish an autobiography just before running for president?


2. Help people


“The medium is the message” means that people don’t care what is being said, they only care who is saying it. Only other people can credibly defend you in the court of public opinion.


The day will come when you’re standing alone in a field with a 10,000 bullets and missiles and jets all flying at your head.


That will be the day when you need friends. If your life motto is “every man for himself” then you’ll be a damp red squish on the field.


3. Love your family


Regardless of whether you can control the narrative and have public defenders, the truth is that there is only one group of people that give unconditional love. Your family.


Never neglect your wife, your kids, your siblings your parents, your close friends.


You can’t expect them to be there for you if you’ve never been there for them.


4. Be anti-fragile


Nassim Taleb’s advice is still the greatest life philosophy I’ve read. Set your life up in such a way that not only are you resilient to public attack, you actually grow from it.


Being an entrepreneur means you’re already half-way there. You can’t be fired by your boss if some random person starts accusing you of evil deeds on Twitter or you tweet an opinion that’s not politically correct.


To be entirely anti-fragile means to fully embrace the mantra: “There is no such thing as bad PR.”.


It also means never reading anything about yourself, ever. The good stuff puffs up your ego (a bad thing), the bad stuff cuts you deep (a bad thing).


5. Never lie


The final rule is “Never lie”. Hell hath no fury as a woman scorned. That us true in all cases except for a journalist lied to.


Of course these are just tactics to protect your personal brand. How do you develop personal brand? Simple.


Be yourself.


Take advice, read books, watch the masters, but never ever outsource your personal brand.


There are very few things more pathetic than CEO opinion pieces written by PR hacks. If you can’t write your own opinion piece, you are either illiterate or you clearly haven’t thought it through, so don’t do it.



Branko Brkic gave me the best advice for dealing with bad press: “The people who matter don’t care, the people who care don’t matter.”