You can help protect your top management from fake news by (1) heeding the wisdom in recent articles by experts at Universal Information Services and Cision, and (2) having the right kind of diversity in your defensive PR strategy meetings. Diversity not just in race, gender and age but also in opinions.
What can make your team especially valuable is having an atmosphere where a member can opine, either sincerely or as devil’s advocate, that the CEO may be “a greedy sob who doesn’t care enough about the public.”
Admirably, some top PR firms like Porter Novelli and Weber Shandwick, who are sponsors of PR Council’s Diversity Distinction in PR Award, put money where their mouths are by recognizing the importance of full diversity.
The strategy and action plan produced by your meeting at a PR firm may not only fire up the client’s enthusiasm but also win heavy support from informed members of the public. The breadth of your plan, looking to influence not only fans of the client but also skeptics, may impress look-ahead research teams like those at FleishmanHillard, Ogilvy and APCO where the researchers look to get a reading on not only the situation now but what the situation is likely to be.
Your program may not only avert lost sales and unduly restrictive regulation but also help the organization come out of a crisis stronger than it went in. This is because if your team is skillful, all the media coverage may start out with some activist’s accusation but end up with good news: the documented truth, shown by your pictures and graphs, that in truth the organization has actually been doing the opposite of what the accusers complained about perhaps because the accusers weren’t aware of all the facts.
Edelman and other firms that measure reputation may see that you moved the needle toward the good side. Burson-Marsteller and other firms skilled at media training may teach interviewees to be not only adequate but great by citing “just the opposite” information your research uncovered.
This kind of success can result from your diversity in opinions around the strategy-planning table, your planning to satisfy not only the client and fans but also soften the hearts and earn more balanced opinions from critics and skeptics. What the client says (and wants you to say) may well be true and even obvious, that industry needs prices adequate enough to fund life-saving research. But a hard nose at your strategy meeting may win approval of the additional idea–which may make it easier for you to convey that the client is sensitive to the public’s aspirations–that the public needs prices low enough plus government help so the public can afford life-saving products.
You are more likely to achieve this strategy-meeting balance when someone in that room, respected and earning a lot of money, feels it is safe to exclaim: “Bull! Instead of just scheming how to make the client look innocent, let’s counsel (or get get the law firm to counsel) what the client should do to not be unduly guilty!”
Successful PR born of diversity in opinions can be expensive but this is PR reality: It is almost always more economical to win than to lose! Avoidable death and blindness are worse than expensive. You want to not just end a PR crisis but when possible to avoid a PR crisis by avoiding client actions and statements that cause outrage. Perhaps ahard-working parent shouldn’t need a second job to feed the family, and a marketing executive may not need to boast of a second home that is lavish.
More diversity in the company’s investments may reward both the company and the public. You may actually get 100 million Americans to think “Thank God” for your client if you get the client to invest in donating a gleaming anti-cancer research center to Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. Millions of Americans may actually PRAY for the success of your client and the research center if TV shows your senior executives and world-famous anti-cancer doctors in a lab announcing that one in three Americans are likely to die of cancer but your executives and the doctors hope eventually to save over a million lives a year.
The diversity of opinions at your PR strategy meetings may produce more success for your client, your PR firm, and whether the client’s CEO actually cares enough or not for a grateful public.
By Ronald N. Levy