. The Transom .

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Why CEO's need PR now more than ever

A lot of talk has been made recently about how kids today get into more trouble than their parent's generation, how our ethics are gone, and how corrupt corporate America has become. That's all a bunch of nonsense. The only difference is that it's 100 times easier to get caught today than it was 'back then.' Kids were just as foolish, our ethics were no better, and corporate America is actually probably in better hands today than 50 years ago.

The reason for all of this is transparency. It's become a completely over-used term, but until something better comes along, I'll run with it. Before, a corporation selected what information it wanted to release to the public to help drive stock prices. Today, information is not only reported by the 'corporate head' but also by the whistle blower in accounting or operations. There is no private information anymore. What's a CEO to do?

The first thing to do is fire your spin doctors. They aren't PR people and they don't know how to operate in today's world. What today's CEO needs is honest communications counsel that understands the business and the effect information has across all stakeholders.

Whew. That's a big role. Welcome to today's public relations.

Luckily there are ways to tell the counsel from the spin docs. Counsel seeks your input and works with you on solutions, even challenging your ideas fiercely to ensure the right action is taken. Spin doctors wait for you to tell them what to do. Counsel brings new ideas and information to you that will be helpful in your decision making. Spinners react to information or downplay its worth. Counsel is worried about the bigger picture. Spin doctors focus on the next five minutes.

CEO's realize that a corporations reputation matters more today than ever. Stocks prices go up and down on information that has nothing to do with finance. The number of job applicants fall over news that Company B isn't properly recycling their e-waste. Having a bank full of good feelings helps offset the occasional bad news. Having no bank leaves the focus only on the bad news.

The reputation of your company and the manner in which you operate isn't a job to be left to the legal department or human resources. It certainly doesn't fall under advertising, although that tool will likely be utilized by the PR counsel at some point. The mighty responsibility of managing your corporate reputation, how the world views and perceives what you do, falls squarely on the shoulders of public relations. In my opinion, too many CEO's can't see past the legal department. Companies aren't letting the people trained in reputation and communications management actually manage the communications and reputation of the company.

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