Many people associate “public relations” with “spin.” Nobody blatantly wants to lie but most senior executives can sleep soundly at night after they hire someone to shape the public’s perception of their “truth.”
But these days, the public can see through spin. Consumers are like pigs to truffles when wrong has been done. Which means some mushroom who hasn’t flown commercial in decades has to sit in the frying pan and answer the allegations. Witness Enron’s Jeff Skilling testifying in Congress. An Oscar-worthy performance equally worthy of a first class ticket to hell.
Blame has always been an American specialty. Ours is not a culture of accountability and solutions but instead one of punitive damages and denial. That is a specialty of the US legal system, so naturally our culture reflects that.
Since the dawn of the school yard, finger pointing has been a varsity sport. What are, after all, the two things an elite athlete does after extreme physical contact? Either a finger is blatantly pointed down at the guy writhing on the ground, or two palms are waived up in the air, dainty as a grandma professing that it “wasn’t me.” In the NBA, the only transgression less common than taking credit for a foul is traveling, and the most popular defense in society these days is denial and deflection.
So is it any surprise that as we crawl out of the economic abyss there has been a preponderance of blame and finger-pointing going on lately?
All of the following targets have had an awful lot of egg on their face in 2010:
- Goldman senior management
- Toyota senior management
- BP and other Gulf state oil senior management
- Dept of Homeland Security senior management
- Catholic church senior management
- State of Arizona senior management
- White House senior management
- Minority party senior management
- Tiger Woods self management
So the question is, if you could only handle the public relations for one, who would it be? Keep in mind history has proven (Tylenol) that effective crisis management isn’t just about holding up two hands and saying “not me,” but actually requires pointing the finger at yourself in a first step toward rehabilitation.
I know that sounds repugnant for all you lawyers out there but the definition of a brand is the trust a product/service/company develops over time with its consumer. And brands can be destroyed in a moment if they betray that trust and then proceed to lie about it to protect against…ta da…punitive damages. Ignore long-term stability for short-term metrics. Imagine if we ran our economy on such a silly quarterly system? Oh…
So which client would David and Sam PR take?
Although the allegations are particularly heinous, at least I know the church could pay its bills. Because more money is the path out of the abyss isn’t it? Or is it the other way around?