Advocacy Inside the Profession

The Best Defense is Still a Good Offense

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In the world of business, as Vince Lombardi astutely observed about the game of football, “The Best Defense is a Good Offense.” And when it comes to defending corporate reputations, going on the offensive is a surefire way to tackle the “world of faux,” particularly in today’s age of micro broadcasting, citizen journalism and rampant anti-advocacy.

Both The Economist and Ad Age have recently reported that anti-business groups have attempted to usurp companies’ control over their own news, and in essence, fool the media, by releasing faux information about a company and its executives.

Business is beginning to launch the offense but has much yardage yet to cover. Just last week, retail juggernaut Best Buy began an initiative to become a publisher in an effort to communicate directly with its customers. Ad Age reports that Best Buy is “rolling out a multichannel network filled with original editorial content spanning everything from how-to videos and gift guides to new-technology primers and behind-the-scenes looks at popular movies.” 

While this may not be a viable solution for every enterprise, the example does provide food for thought in terms of how to take the offense.

The takeaway for me falls into two categories.  First, stick to the tried and true rules of good communications:

  1. Full disclosure and transparency.
  2. Communicate early, often and honestly.
  3. Treat all constituencies the same in terms of disclosure.
  4. Don’t say anything you do not want to see in print, blogs, tweets and billboards or on screens, small, medium, large or wide.
  5. Your employees are your front line to the brand, arm them well.
  6. Your customers face you, back them up and serve them well.

Certainly social media platforms are adding incredible value to the communications process and are strongly coalescing like-minded individuals and communities for significant benefit to the enterprise, but the basics of solid communications and stellar constituency relationship management have not changed one iota. The day-to-day blocking and tackling like good grammar, correct spelling, simple declarative sentences and clean writing and speaking remain fundamental to optimum understanding and comprehension. 

The second takeaway is if you can’t beat them, join them. 

  1. Make liberal, synchronized and simultaneous use of all of the channels of communications.
  2. Employ the conventional channels with integrity.
  3. Master the new channels of social media with aplomb.
  4. Apply balance and perspective in the use of social media.
  5. Once you start don’t stop — be sustainable in the use of blogs, vlogs, tweets and Wikis.

Platforms du jour like Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter, Foursquare, Plaxo, etc., are proving their worth in the communications arsenal available to organizations and their public relations professionals to battle disinformation, innuendo and other falsehoods. But if they are to be fully successful in their outcomes, they require implementation that is not unlike a fine-tuned orchestra. Complementary, consistent, resonant, synergistic and holistic are just a few of the terms I would attribute to how social media and traditional methods of communications should play together on the field of good reputation management.   

The bottom line is that by merging the “tried and the true” with the “new and the bold” companies are less likely to be surprised or usurped by the “scum and the restless.”

Gerard F. Corbett, APR, Fellow PRSA, is PRSA Chair-Elect and the CEO of Redphlag LLC in San Bruno, Calif.

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Gerard F. Corbett, APR, Fellow PRSA

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