Observing the spate of recent public debacles has caused me to revisit what makes for the most effective outbound communications.
At the 10K-foot level, it requires the management of a company and the communications function to be on the same page.
I’m not talking about being in sync with regards to the pristine messages in a news release.
Instead, I’m suggesting management and communications need to be in alignment when it comes to the overall operation of the company.
In other words, PR actually has a say in how a company behaves.
Before going further, let’s take a look at the definition of utopia:
An imagined place or state of things in which everything is perfect.
Of course, shades of gray shadow PR, so I’m asking you to suspend belief as I continue down this path.
In my “perfect world,” PR serves as the conscious of the company, making sure decisions and actions align with the organization’s aspirations and core values.
The gap between actions and conscious often goes on public display during a crisis. It causes companies to deploy words as the lead pin to diffuse the situation.
I think they call this spin.
For exhibit A, rewind the clock to last March when Toyota’s lawyers seemed in charge, leaving the PR function with the dubious honor of communicating the recall decisions to the outside world.
Look at Facebook’s recent self-inflicted poke.
There’s no way Facebook’s PR function had a say in the decision to deposition Google on the issue of privacy without divulging Facebook’s name. If they did, as the conscious of the company they would have pointed out:
“Fellas, our brand stands for openness and transparency. Call me crazy, but it’s probably a good idea if we let the media know we’re behind this communication in the spirit of, right, openness and transparency.”
One final example –
The actions of FIFA, the worldwide governing body of soccer, conjure the image of the Marx Brothers in “Duck Soup.” Zany works in a movie but it’s not exactly the desired description of an enterprise that now tops $1 billion in revenue.
Seth Blatter’s answer to the latest bribery scandal was to assemble a “council of wisdom” consisting of Placido Domingo, Henry Kissinger, and Johan Cruyff.
A tenor, a statesman coming up on 90 years of age, and a former soccer player.
Again, the PR function – you’d be hard-pressed to find a PR contact on the FIFA website, which I suppose reflects the organization’s mentality – might have pointed out to Prince Blatter the words “council of wisdom” will lead to parody. And, oh, by the way, if the objective is to clean up the organization, then doesn’t it make sense to select people with track records in “cleaning up” and give them a modicum of autonomy?
Which brings us back to the PR profession’s never-ending lament:
We need a seat at the table.
Perhaps this quest misses the point.
It could be some (most?) companies prefer communications without the dot-connecting guidance.