VIA Idea #5: Tell it All, Tell it Fast and Tell the Truth

12 Apr

We’ve learned in Crisis Communications 101 that it is always best to admit a mistake up front and do whatever possible to re-establish credibility and confidence with your audiences. Never lie, deny or hide your involvement. If you ignore the situation it will only get worse.

David Letterman’s recent admissions were text book. We can’t say he came out with his reputation intact, but he beat his blackmailer by going public with the truth.

In this information age, stories are told and stored on the Web forever. It’s hard to hide, and harder to recover. Understanding proper public relations practices and implementing them consistently helps you be a better corporate citizen and builds positive relationships.

The Arthur W. Page Society, a professional association for public relations and corporate communications executives, has published The Page Principles to guide our actions and behaviors:

1. Tell the truth. Let the public know what’s happening and provide an accurate picture of the company’s character, ideals and practices.

2. Prove it with action. Public perception of an organization is determined 90 percent by what it does and 10 percent by what it says.

3. Listen to the customer. To serve the company well, understand what the public wants and needs. Keep top decision makers and other employees informed about public reaction to company products, policies and practices.

4. Manage for tomorrow. Anticipate public reaction and eliminate practices that create difficulties. Generate goodwill.

5. Conduct public relations as if the whole company depends on it. Corporate relations is a management function. No corporate strategy should be implemented without considering its impact on the public. The public relations professional is a policymaker capable of handling a wide range of corporate communications activities.

6. Realize a company’s true character is expressed by its people. The strongest opinions — good or bad — about a company are shaped by the words and deeds of its employees. As a result, every employee — active or retired — is involved with public relations. It is the responsibility of corporate communications to support each employee’s capability and desire to be an honest, knowledgeable ambassador to customers, friends, shareowners and public officials.

7. Remain calm, patient and good-humored. Lay the groundwork for public relations miracles with consistent and reasoned attention to information and contacts. This may be difficult with today’s contentious 24-hour news cycles and endless number of watchdog organizations. But when a crisis arises, remember, cool heads communicate best.

Click here to read “Principles for Conducting Public Relations on the Internet” and “Restoring Trust in Business: Models for Actions.”

After all these years of humans trying to cover their mistakes, honesty remains the best policy.

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