There’s much the corporate world could learn from Bruce Jenner about public relations and how to take control of a difficult and potentially embarrassing situation.
For months, media speculation on what was really going on with him since his break up with Kris Jenner, the grand doyenne of the Kardashian media/business/gossip dynasty, was on overload – most of it trivial. “Bruce Jenner Gets French Manicure, Wears Diamond Earrings on Outing,” said one headline. Another publication photo-shopped lipstick, curled hair and a silk scarf on a picture of him. Bruce’s story was something deep-rooted and real – not just for him but for many others who identified with his struggles. Yet, the media portrayed his changing appearance as little more than a simple gossip item…no different than any number of small, unimportant nuggets emanating from the family’s reality empire.
Rather than remain silent, Jenner took control of his narrative and granted a two-hour interview with ABC’s Diane Sawyer that aired on national television and was seen by more than 20 million viewers. He talked of his personal struggles with gender identity in genuine and raw terms and in so doing he shifted the dialogue away from the sophomoric gossip that filled the tabloids for months into an adult conversation. The national discussion was now about transgender issues that the mainstream media covered with thoughtful pieces on Jenner’s personal journey and its broader implication for others facing similar challenges. His family came out in support of him. He quashed speculation of this being a publicity stunt. Even the rest of the Kardashian clan – typically known for empty, brain-candy nonsense – came out looking sympathetic, progressive and supportive. That’s no mean feat.
Through honest, direct dialogue, Jenner changed his media narrative in a single interview. He did it by being honest and transparent and answering tough questions truthfully and sincerely. The business world would do well to take heed and act accordingly.