CommCore Blog and News

The ‘Front Page Test’ on Email Risks – And How it is Different for Business Leaders Versus Politicians


recent article in the Washington Post pointed out what is known in the communications consulting world as “The New York Times Rule” or “The Front-Pagjulyobservere Test,” which states that anything you write in email can turn up in a major national newspaper and become a liability to your reputation. We’re not playing politics here, just commenting on what businesses, non-profits and associations can take away from Donald Trump Jr’s emails suggesting collusion with Russians on damaging Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.

Here are few simple rules:

  • Do not put anything in your emails that you wouldn’t want to see in the national press.
  • Business, nonprofit and association leaders are held to a higher standard than politicians when they misstep or miscommunicate.
  • Rhetoric is almost never sufficient to repair reputational damage – it might work for politicians, but CEOs and their teams need to also take action.
  • Make no promises on those actions that you cannot fulfill – and fulfill quickly.
  • Let others – employees, shareholders, partners, advocates – speak about the good work you or your CEO is doing to get back in good graces – not the organization itself.
One more rule:  Anytime you are about to send out a critical, controversial or aggressive email – pause, count to 10, think about the NY Times rule and then only send it if:
  • You can stand the heat from public revelation
  • It’s truthful
  • There are no better ways to express the ideas