. The Transom .

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

What's in a name? Not much.

In Missouri, there is a pro-marijuana Libertarian named Chief Wana Dubie running for a seat in the 150th House District. That's what will actually be on the ballot thanks to a crack in the system. Mr. Dubie isn't the first candidate to try and manipulate the ballot naming practice. Chicago has seen Les "Cut the Taxes" Golden and Stephanie "Vs. the Machine" Sailor, both who essentially made their platforms their middle names.

That people would go to such lengths to draw attention to themselves is a little crazy, but historically what we see is that their efforts aren't successful. And from this example we are reminded of a classic business rule: actions speak louder than words.

Too many companies fail to realize that it isn't what you say, it's what you do. Too many companies have a knee-jerk reaction to hire PR firms to salvage their reputation without making the commitment to change the way they behave. Any PR firm worth its salt will walk away from that deal because they have been set up for failure. All the spin in the world can't save a company whose actions conflict with their words.

Take Merck for example. Merck used to be known as a caring, pro-safety pharmaceutical company. Where are they now? In denial. Vioxx has been painted as the next cyanide. And what does Merck do? They run an advertising campaign touting how committed they are to safety and how Vioxx isn't bad. Are you kidding me?

Companies or campaigns today can't rely on customers, voters or investors to blindly accept what they hear or read. The truth is available and they will find it. With the amount of competition and choices that consumers have today, companies are forced to walk the line or face a long, costly and difficult road of reputation recovery.

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