You Can Only Know What You Know

JoAnna Bennett

JoAnna Bennett, O’Brien Communications Group

25 April 2019

The statement in the title of this post seems pretty obvious; however, I know I forget it all too often. You can only know what you know. It’s true in the reverse too. You can’t know what you don’t know. The good news is that with a little time and the right materials, you can learn what you don’t know. That is … if you are astute enough to admit you might need to do a little more learning.

O’Brien Communications Group is a brand-management firm. Companies hire us to help with myriad marketing and communications strategies and tactics. And while most of our clients hire us because they realize they don’t know enough about our discipline themselves, we’ve gotten bamboozled by a few who’ve hired us and expected us to do their bidding, regardless of what our knowledge and experience tells us about the outcome of that bidding.

If You Don’t Know, Are You Still Responsible?

Yes. If you missed the last speed limit sign, drove as fast as you wanted to, and got pulled over, it’s unlikely you’ll get out of the ticket by saying, “I didn’t know what the speed limit was.” The cop might look at you and say, “Okay, ma’am. Next time you should pay more attention to the posted signs.”

Since it’s all but ubiquitous, you’ve probably heard or read about the scandal involving Lori Loughlin from Full House. She paid a consultant to fudge test scores to get her two daughters into college. We aren’t talking a few thousand dollars either, it was upwards of $500,000. She also took pictures of one of her daughters, depicting her on a crew team for which she never rowed. Loughlin said she had no idea the consultant was running a fraudulent enterprise. Is she still responsible for the fraudulent application even thought she didn’t know it was illegal? I really hope that isn’t her entire defense.

If you didn’t know it was illegal to pay someone to commit a homicide, can you still be charged for the contract killing? Or can your ignorance of the law protect you? No.

I’ll say it again: You can only know what you know. And only you can limit your knowledge and experience. Also, if you plan to spend $500,000 on something that seems a tad shady, you might want to ask some questions and find out if the situation is too good to be true.

You can plead ignorance. But that’s not the same as pleading not guilty.