Posts Tagged ‘transparency’

I was recording and uploading a video tonight for my students, and in the video, was explaining some of the major differences between traditional press releases and social media press releases.  One of the points I made was that the need for corporate transparency has never been greater; but in the back of my mind, I was wondering how many CEOs really understood this.  The technological changes in our world have moved at warp speed – far faster than human nature had kept up with, I think.  So I went cruising around my favorite public relations blogs, and found an allied point of view on PRSA’s ComPRehension blog by Rachel Happe, calle The CEO is Naked.  Take a gander; and be forewarned.

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I’ve been an independent public relations consultant for 26 years now, spending part of that time running my own shop complete with a staff, and part of that time just operating as a solo practitioner.  This week, after years of preparation – studying at Syracuse for my Master’s, moving back to Oregon – I finally add teaching to the mix.  For a time I was unsure about the main message I wanted to impart to my students in an advanced public relations course, and I finally realized it’s the same message I always give to those who ask about becoming an entrepreneur: know your own values.

When you communicate on behalf of others, whether they be clients or the people in the company or organization for which you work, your communication must come from your whole self – from your heart.   Your values have to be a match. In this profession, you really cannot operate on the fence; you can’t take a job just because the pay is great or you like the benefits or the company name packs a lot of prestige with it. When you are interviewing for a job, even in this difficult economy – perhaps especially in this difficult economy – you need to be looking at the company as closely as that company is looking at you.

Likewise, if you are an independent agency or solo practitioner, you need to choose your clients carefully. A year-round retainer fee has anyone’s attention; so does a prestigious name; so does the chance to do work that will be both extremely important and extremely visible.

But the same advice holds.  There are a couple of easy examples which make the point.  Suppose you are adamantly pro-life, and your organization decides to do some work for the pro-choice people wanting to keep the option of legal abortion open for women.  Or suppose you come down strongly on the environmentalist side of things, and are asked to do some work for an open-pit mine.

Are you willing to consider a point of view at odds with your own?  Are you willing to look at a set of facts you may not have considered before?  Are you able to foresee the consequences of the work you’ll be doing? 

How has that company interviewing you reacted to a past crisis in its organization?  Was there any lying or stonewalling?  Did you like the way employees were treated during the crisis? 

These questions are more critical today than ever, because we live in a time of increased transparency and – sometimes – it seems we face increased cynicism out there.  So when it comes to communication, know yourself – and to thine own self be true, as the Bard once said.

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I’m taking a much-needed break on the Oregon Coast this weekend.  The ocean sets things right again, invariably; one’s own problems and concerns fade in the sounds of the tide.

I’m taking stock of some things this weekend; I’ve just finished 3 weeks of dealing with shingles, which I’m told (and certainly believe) is a delayed stress reaction.   From helping my daughter Diana through a difficult time when Andrew was born nearly two months early and staying in Idaho with my older gransons, Christopher and Brandon for about five weeks, until Diana and Bob could bring Andrew home from the hospital; to the house flood in Missoula when a water main broke; to the move to Gresham; to the loss of some business over the summer when I could not keep up with everything after all the emergencies – it was just an uphill climb for quite a few months in there.  I took the fall off, and decided that I’d set enough things in motion that whatever would be, would be in terms of future lifestyle and work.

And, indeed, things have worked out; following my long-term dream, I start teaching winter quarter.  Business is going well.  The new house in Gresham has shaped up into a comfortable and lovely home.  I’m finally caught up with all the other aspects of my life – the work for veterans and service members regarding mandatory bioterrorism vaccines and work with the still-amazing PRSA Board, to name the two major volunteer things that I do.  And I’ve seen my family quite a bit since the move and hope to get back to see Montana friends after the holidays.

The last three weeks of pain – and, if you’ve ever had shingles, you know it’s a good dollup of pain – have, once again, taught me a little patience.  The weeks have reminded me that as much as we all would like to control our own image and reputation all of the time, there are times when it’s simply not possible.  Occasionally, life gives you a good swift kick for reasons you may never know, and the only thing you can do is control your own attitude.  It reminds me on a personal level of what we always counsel our clients about on a professional level:  it’s everything you’ve done before the crisis hits that determines how well you come through the crisis.  It’s all the groundwork you have laid at other times and in other places; all the substance you have inside you, either as a person, or as a business entity.  If the substance is there; if you have worked, and prepared, and sometimes given a little blood, sweat and tears, then when things happen that you couldn’t possibly have anticipated or prepared for, that substance will stand you in good stead.

For all those who think we spin, those of us in public relations – this is my answer.  You can “spin” all you want as an untrained practitioner whose ethics I’m sure I would end up questioning.  But when the chips are down, and we have to know who you or your client or your organization really is with all the gloss stripped away, we’ll find out; we’ll see; we’ll know.  And there won’t  be any way to stop that transparency.  So be sure you’ve built up the right foundation, the right substance, the right relationships, in advance.

Lying in my recliner watching too much TV while on heavy-duty drugs to combat shingles, those were some of my thoughts; just hoping that everything up until that point would be enough to carry me through yet one more emergency this year.

Turns out, it was.  It was enough.

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