Category Archives: Social Interactive Media (SIM)

Hey Stupid, Privacy is Dead and Your Face is the Reason

Facial recognition software is the final nail in Internet privacy

Facial recognition software is the final nail in Internet privacy

Go ahead, just try to protect your privacy. Give up Facebook. Scoff at Twitter. Swear you’re going to never sign on the computer again. It is all useless.

Stick a fork in privacy on the Internet. There no such thing as privacy on the Internet, nor is there privacy off the Internet.

A girl decides to check up on her boyfriend. She happens to be an attorney in Ohio and has access to the State’s facial recognition software. She uses it to snoop on her boyfriend and other people her friends were dating. This was in 2008. Five years ago and she was using (well, misusing) facial recognition software that was meant for finding criminals.

It doesn’t matter whether you take the picture or post it. It doesn’t even matter if you knew you were in the picture. New Years Eve? Good luck in keeping your face out of every picture that people around you take. If your face shows up in a posted picture, it can be found and matched. 

Not only law enforcement is using facial recognition software. Casinos are using it. Some suggest that Disney is using it in their parks. Retailers are using it. Your significant other can buy it and download it today. If you want to see how deep the rabbit hole goes, watch this TED Talk on facial recognition software.

Anthony Weiner: Too bad it wasn't his face that got him in trouble

Anthony Weiner: Too bad it wasn’t his face that got him in trouble

There is no such thing as privacy. One more time. There is no such thing as privacy.

Behave. That’s it. Or at least know that if you don’t behave everyone will find out and it will be at the worst possible moment for you. People learn how to behave when they go out in public. The Internet is public. There is no difference.

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10 Things To Decline From An Employer

No longer can anyone expect to build a lifelong career with one organization, nor is that considered healthy for the individual or the company. A person is now his or her own commodity. He or she must expect to build their own skills and reputation as an individual on the open market rather than as corporate employee number 8675309.

In this Brave New Working World a person should be prepared to say ‘no’ to antiquated elements of 20th Century employment, not only because they are inappropriate, but because they indicate that employer is unaware of their failure to be competitive in the 21st Century. Benefits and perks that were meant to tie a person to one organization no longer make sense in a world where ‘permanent employee’ has been replaced by ‘contract labor.’

Here are ten employment offers and requests that should be declined from an employer and cause you to re-evaluate your working relationship with a company:

No. 10 – Retirement Benefits
It should be obvious that any company offering retirement benefits either does not understand today’s working world or is trying to offer something that they know you will never receive. Better to have the money now and invest than pretend you’ll still be with the company when you retire.

The Company Email is always the company's to give or take away

The company giveth and taketh away access to your email

No. 9 – The Company Email Account
You many have to use the company email when corresponding with others in the company, but always ask yourself, “If the company decided to lay me off today and they ended my access to my email account, what information would I lose?” What about that email from the senior executive that ordered you to overcharge your customer? Every email sent to your company email account should be forwarded to a private account and blind copy any company emails you send to your private account. This protects you and the company from the unethical corporate manager.

No. 8 – The Company Car
When I was growing up my uncle worked for an oil tool business and he had a company car. I thought that was the coolest perk in the world. While it is a rare perk in today’s world, it should be declined in most situations. The problem with the full-time company car is that it becomes a liability if a better employment opportunity arises. Suddenly you’re faced with buying a new car in order to accept a better job.

The company cell phone comes with chains attached

The company cell phone comes with chains attached

No. 7 – The Company Cell Phone
Many people fail to realize what a company cell phone represents. It is a chain that ties the employee to the employer 24/7/365. A boss may hesitate to call a private cell phone, but have no problem calling the phone they are paying for at 3 AM. Many jobs require an employee to be accessible, but you are better off with your own phone than be indentured by a company cell phone.

No. 6 – Giving Your Employer Your Social Media Passwords
There are questions as to whether it is legal for an employer to demand an employee’s passwords to his or her Facebook, Twitter, and other Social Media passwords. The bottom line is that you do not want to work for a company that wants this level of control on your life. It will only go downhill from there.

No 5 – Restricting Free Speech (The NDA)
In an exercise with students in a graduate program, I purchased the fictional company they worked for and I was interviewing them to determine who to keep and who to let go. As part of this exercise I gave each of them an outrageous NDA contract (see Kco NDA) to sign. In almost every case, the Master’s program students signed it, most without question.

A company’s has a right to protect its reputation, but employers should be under the burden to gain the loyalty, trust, and respect of their employees so that they would not dream of talking smack about their workplace. If an employee is ready to bad mouth the source of their income then either the employer hired the wrong person, or the employer has failed to treat their employee as an important asset. In either case, it is the employer, not the employee who shoulders the burden of the failure.

No. 4 – Intellectual Property
If you have been consigned to produce something tangible for someone, then you have agreed to surrender it once it has been created and delivered; however, many companies are claiming ownership of any work done by an employee as their own intellectual property. Nothing could be more disrespectful to a human than to treat them as a machine that is only useful as a tree from which they pick and enjoy the fruit. A business that values their team would never have to be concerned about the issue of intellectual property because each team member’s work would be a source of pride and celebration. The important element in any organization is the person who creates the work, not the work itself.

Before you sign away your right to maintain ownership of your work you should ask if you want your give away your legacy of achievement to those who didn’t do the work?

The Affordable Care Act is emancipation for the worker

The Affordable Care Act is emancipation for the worker

No. 3 – Health Benefits
America has millions of people who continue to work for an employer primarily because they need or want the health insurance offered by the company. As an employer do you want people to only be working for you because of the health benefit perk?

The biggest impact that the Affordable Care Act will have on America is to free people to work for people they want to work for, not those who have the critical health care benefit he or she needs.

No. 2 – Pay For Performance
When someone attempts to quantify a job or project they sacrifice common sense for greed. The need to meet the measured goals forces an employee to ignore important aspects of work that can’t be measured or quantified. Pay For Performance assumes the Ends always justifies the Means, which is rarely true in the business world, despite what greedy executives and investors think. Almost always customer satisfaction is at risk under Pay For Performance standards because a customers true satisfaction cannot be measured by questionnaires, surveys, nor sales. In every case the wise employee will figure out how to exploit the system and defeat the true purpose of the evaluation tool.

Pay For Performance systems are lose-lose scenarios for everyone and a company that relies on them does not understand how to truly motivate and reward its team; therefore, you should avoid the trap they are setting for you, your customers, and themselves.

No. 1 – The NCA
The non-compete agreement or NCA is the one indicator that proves only fools work for the employer, and there are plenty of fools out there. You shouldn’t be one of them. 

An NCA basically eviscerates your career by not allowing you to continue working if you leave the current company. In today’s world that can be a death sentence. Your skills and experience are laid to waste by an NCA and you should never agree to it, nor should you consider working for someone who asks you to sign one.

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Filed under Business, Communication, Customer Relations, Customer Service, Employee Retention, Ethics, Health, Honor, Human Resources, Information Technology, Internet, Management Practices, Pride, Privacy, Public Relations, Re-Imagine!, Relationships, Respect, Social Interactive Media (SIM), Social Media Relations, Technology, Tom Peters

Nevada Middle School Shooting Made Worse By Absent and Inept Public Relations Management

On October 21st a 12 year-old Nevada boy brought a gun to his school, killed a teacher, shot two other students, then killed himself. The shooting left families devastated in a continuing saga of gun-related school incidents. Sadly, the crisis was intensified and prolonged by the failure of the local authorities to use standard and best practices in managing public relations. At times it seemed that there was a vacuum in media management. At other times it seemed that government officials from China had been employed to handle community relations.

Sparks Middle School - A tragedy made worse

Sparks Middle School – A tragedy made worse

In any crisis situation there is panic followed by confusion, rumors, and fear. The first goal is to resolve the immediate crisis. In most situations this will involve turning over control of the facilities and situation to law enforcement and other first responders.

However, the second goal of an organization in a crisis is to reduce the confusion, rumors, and fears. This process must start as quickly as possible, and sometimes it must be done before the crisis is under control by first responders.

In the Nevada incident, parents throughout the Reno community¹ were aware of an active shooter on a local school campus within minutes of the 7:15 AM shooting incident. There were 20 to 30 eyewitnesses when the teenager shot a teacher, who then reportedly went into the school and killed himself . It was all over within a few minutes. 

(¹The shooting occurred in Sparks, Nevada, a suburb of Reno.)

In the first hours following the shooting some rumors persisted that police were looking for the suspect; however, it is likely that law enforcement on the scene knew within ten to fifteen minutes that shooter was dead. With the suspect dead, the priorities of the first responders were to render assistance to the wounded, secure the students and school, secure the crime scene, and gather information.

Children became the official source of the shooting

Children became the official information source of the shooting

At least eight different sources were quoted in the first few hours after the shooting. This would indicate that the Washoe County School District and the various law enforcement agencies responding did not select a skilled spokesperson to manage the post-shooting situation. At 7:42 AM, less than 30 minutes after the shooting, the Reno Gazette Journal reported the following:

  • A shooting had occurred at Sparks Middle School
  • A police spokesperson had confirmed that the shooter was ‘neutralized’
  • Police were looking for the suspect
  • The school was on lockdown
  • The students had been evacuated

It shouldn’t be a surprise that the information coming from the crime scene in the first hour of the incident will be in conflict; however, the role of the primary spokesperson is to rapidly identify rumors and incorrect facts and address them. Two hours after the shooting a press conference was held. This was the opportunity for local authorities to reduce anxiety, confusion, and fear by detailing critical information. By answering as many of the basic questions (who, what, where, when, why, how) as possible the public could be reassured that despite the tragedy, authorities knew what happened and had the situation under control. After the press conference the Reno Gazette Journal reported:

“Authorities released few details about a shooting at about 7:15 a.m. at Sparks Middle School during a 9:15 a.m. press conference.”

If the families of the dead and wounded had not been notified then it would not have been appropriate to release the names; however, authorities wouldn’t even confirm whether teachers or students had been shot. Students began reporting what happened to the media and with no cooperation from local authorities, the families were contacted. That is the symptom of absent or inept media management.

Forcing Children To Be Spokespeople
Within minutes after the shooting word spread, not just within the local community, but around the world. Instantly parents, grandparents, relatives, and friends of school-age children began asking questions. What school? Was anyone killed? How many were shot? Who was killed or injured? Was it over? Why did it happen? Is my child/grandchild safe?

By withholding the details the local authorities did not withhold the story they just lost management of it. Without an official source for information the witnesses, in this case, mostly children, became the official spokesperson. To make the blunders of the first day worse, suburban police and city officials refused to release the name of the shooter for three days, citing that his name did not appear on any ‘report.’ 

The Public’s Right To Know Not the Correct Issue
Local media was incensed by the stonewalling of the authorities to release the name; however, this was more than an issue of the public’s Right to Know. The stated reason by authorities to withhold the shooter’s name was to protect the family, the failure to release this information put more focus on the shooter’s family to confirm or deny the rumors that were rampant within the community.

A skilled spokesperson would have understood this and worked to ensure that the information was appropriately released while also urging the media to respect the family’s need to grieve. 

Who Owns Information?
In the 20th century mass communication came with a catch. Access to information could be controlled. The public knew what the government, public relations staff, editors, and news directors wanted us to know. That changed with the Internet and Social Media. Information is fluid and it will flow through any conduit it can find. Information desired by the public will find the quickest path and anyone who believes they can stop the flow of it is only diverting it through another source. A spokesperson can and should be the quickest path for facts and information because it will reduce the fear, confusion and rumors.

The mishandling of the crisis in Nevada should serve as a lesson as to why a skilled, experienced crisis manager and spokesperson should be a part of every organization. No tragedy should be made worse by inept local authorities.

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Filed under About Reno, Communication, Crime, Crisis Management, Ethics, Government, Information Technology, Internet, Management Practices, Opinion, Print Media, Public Relations, Social Interactive Media (SIM), Social Media Relations, Traditional Media, Violence in the Workplace

Raging Employee: A Case Study For Today’s Business

Frank Sain's Mug Shot

Frank Sain’s Mug Shot

Last Tuesday (February 19,) police detectives visited Frank Sain at his office at SofTec Solutions in Englewood, Colorado. Sain was hired as the Chief Operating Officer for the technology company in the Fall of 2011.

As reported by the Denver Post, they questioned him about six emails he sent between February 13 and 15, in addition to voicemails left to Colorado State Representative Rhonda Fields. Representative Fields has proposed legislation to limit gun magazine capacities in Colorado. The emails and voicemails were said to be sexually and racially offensive and indicated he was enraged by the proposed legislation.

“Hopefully somebody Gifords both of your asses with a gun….”

per The Denver Post – In an email from Frank Sain to Representative Rhonda Fields

Two days after the police interviewed him (February 21) an unsigned letter was received by Representative Fields that threatened harm to both her and her daughter.

The next day Frank Sain was arrested and this past Monday the arrest was reported in the Denver Post. According to the Denver Post, Sain admits to the emails.

The situation is an important case study for business because it is the type of crisis that every business must be prepared for in today’s social media, politically charged world.

Company Public Image Issues

Frank Sain's headshot before he was erased from the company's website

Frank Sain’s headshot before he was erased from the company’s website

The obvious issue is public relations. A rank-and-file employee who acts out in a public forum out can damage a company’s reputation, but to have a manager, and in this case, a company executive, who acts out creates an impression that the organization might have been involved, or at least, enabled the behavior of the person.

In addition, an organization’s website typically boasts about its executives and when one of them misbehaves it makes the company look incompetent. It is important for a company to not prejudge an accused employee; however, when the basic allegations are admitted to by the employee the organization must take quick action to divorce itself from the actions of the employee. In this situation, with the allegations reportedly admitted to by the employee, SofTec Solutions quickly responded by removing Frank Sain from their website within 24 hours of the Denver Post story.

One issue is whether or not the organization should speak out publicly regarding the employee. Many companies might choose to not create any more public exposure regarding the situation, but I feel that would be the wrong choice. Both the public and customers/clients of the company will have a negative impression of the company that will be left in everyone’s mind if not addressed. It is important that the company make it clear that the acts and opinions of their executive were not enabled, endorsed, nor condoned by the organization and some type of heartfelt statement should be made with apologies to the appropriate people.¹

SofTec Management Team webpages - Monday versus Tuesday

SofTec Management Team webpages – Monday versus Tuesday

Human Resources Issues
Separating an employee is never easy. Separating an employee who has demonstrated rage and flaunts his gun ownership is even harder.

An organization cannot have an executive who makes derogatory sexual and racial statements and threatens to do violent harm to others. Of special concern is that in this situation the person seemed to escalate in his bad behavior after being questioned by law enforcement, signaling the potential of underlying, uncontrolled rage.

If the person can be reasoned with, it would be best to sit down with the employee and discuss the situation. Allowing the person to resign might be appropriate; however, in some cases an organization may have a duty to inform other potential employers of the circumstances of the separation. Making the employee someone else’s problem is not a smart move, especially if the company failed to warn the new employer of potential violent behavior.

The best practice in this situation might be to put the employee on paid leave for a period of time and require he seek counseling to address his behavior issues. There should be an understanding that separation with some type of severance package would occur upon compliance with the counseling requirement.

The organization should discuss the situation with legal counsel that is experienced in employee law as local, state and/or federal laws may dictate what an organization can, must, and can’t do in these types of circumstances. Engaging an expert in crisis management and/or violent employee situations should be part of separation planning.

In House Investigation
Under these types of circumstances an organization should conduct a thorough investigation of the employee’s co-workers, clients, etc. The purpose is to identify the scope of the issue. Did he confide in people who should have informed the company? Are there others who are sympathetic to him and might have behavior issues of their own? Does the company foster extreme political anger and if so, how should it be addressed? Did he act out among customers/clients and, if so, what is the impression they have of the company? Did he have an abusive email style with employees and/or customers.

There are many questions that must be answered if an organization hopes to move out of the crisis. Burying the incident may make everyone feel better, but it may turn out that the problem was just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. Training, counseling and other remedial efforts for all employees may be required to heal the damage caused by the executive who put the company into the crisis.

¹(UPDATE: Just before publishing this article, the Denver Post announced that SofTec Solutions had suspended Frank Sain and issued a strongly worded statement condemning his behavior.)

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The Dark Side of PR: Distraction and Deception or ‘Armstronging’ the Public

In this series regarding public relations (PR) tactics of ‘Managing the Message’ I’ve talked about how some organizations focus is centered on Reaction Avoidance (SEE:  Why ‘Managing the Message’ Doesn’t) rather than public interaction. In a Social Media dominated world, this results in the organization always looking manipulative and weak.

In Part II (SEE: Public Relations Techniques That Kill Organizations) I discussed the use of Anti-listening techniques to avoid and limit public discussion of issues that an organization may not want to address. In this article we will discuss more sinister techniques used to by organizations to ‘manage the message.’

Managing the Message is the alpha and omega of the NRA

Managing the Message is the alpha and omega of the NRA

Managing the message inherently requires the belief that PR people have God-like powers over the public. Add an organizational executive team that already believes they are Gods and we have the perfect storm of ego and a lack of ethics that lead to the worst PR tactics in business. Under these circumstances we move from passive techniques to manage the message into an aggressive intent to distract and deceive.

There are many examples of aggressive attempts to manage the message and in almost every case there are people in key positions who see themselves as the maker of information and disinformation. These people believed that they have justification to take any step necessary to protect the public image of the organization and/or promote organizational goals, ethical or not. Distraction, withholding information, and deception are the rungs of the ladder that sink an organization into deeper and deeper into the dark side of PR.

Withholding Information
Withholding Information and/or blocking information is a tactic of an organization using aggressive and unethical PR tactics. One of the best examples of this is the National Rifle Association (NRA.) The NRA seems to only care about public opinion when the polls tend to support its position, but that doesn’t stop them from trying to manipulating public opinion.

In 1996, the NRA worked with Arkansas Representative Jay Dickey (R) to cut $2.6 million from the budget of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and added the wording the appropriations bill that restricted the CDC from any research that would “advocate or promote gun control.”  $2.6 million is what the CDC had spent in the prior year on gun-related research. The 104th Republican-controlled Congress passed it into law and it has restricted the CDC from gun-related research since 1996. (¹)

The NRA worked with Kansas Representative Todd Tiahrt (R) in 2003, to forbid the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) from collecting statistics on gun injuries and deaths. In 2011, the NRA worked with Representative Denny Rehberg (R) of Montana to prevent the National Institutes of Health (NIH) from funding any research that contradicted or challenged pro-NRA positions. (²)(³)

BP: What Leak?
Another example of withholding information occurred in the summer of 2010 when the BP leased oil rig, Deepwater Horizon caught fire and exploded in the Gulf of Mexico.

BP public image destroyed once video revealed the PR deception

BP public image destroyed once video revealed the PR deception

In the days after the complete loss of the rig, BP PR tactics included denial of an oil leak at the wellhead, acknowledging a small amount of oil leakage, and finally admitting larger and larger amounts of leaking oil that still underestimated the amount of actual oil spilled. At one point BP withhold live video of the oil spill at the wellhead.

BP’s public position was that until anyone could prove otherwise, they could deny any significant oil spill. BP’s ‘prove it’ stance forced public media to accept BP’s estimates until overwhelming evidence piled up against the company. Once it did, BP’s public image was in tatters. No one believed anything CEO Tony Hayward or BP said.

‘Armstronging’ the Public
Technically the act of withholding information falls into the category of deception and distraction, although an organization that is consciously attempting to deceive or distract the public is flirting with possible criminal and/or civil charges. While some organizations (or even some people) might be under the belief that their unethical acts will never be discovered, some organizations may simply be trying to delay or soften a negative issue by forcing the public to learn the details over a period of days, weeks, months, or years. Yet, many times the PR tactics used by an organization is simply a lack of executive ethics rather than a conscious choice.

I cannot tell a lie...well, yes I can,...piece-o-cake actually.

I cannot tell a lie…well, yes I can,…piece-o-cake actually

The most recent high-profile example this is the Lance Armstrong fiasco. The world now knows that Lance Armstrong used illegal performance enhancing drugs and techniques during his reign as Bicycling King, but through denial and aggressive legal means he managed to make most people believe he was innocent. Now he admits he lied, but it is far enough past his glory days that it may not have the impact it would have at the time he was active in the sport. Still, who wants to be Lance Armstrong now? No one.

The problem with managing the message is that Social Media has stolen power away from the PR people. An organization’s public image consists of the support and enthusiasm of an elusive mass of connected people, who can smell manipulation and love to expose unethical acts of people with more money than sense. On the other hand, Social Media readily responds to respect and honesty, which is not  familiar territory to some older business men. As we move deeper into the Social Media Age, the business world will see a new PR model that listens more, talks less, is more humble and less arrogant, loves interaction and rejects domination.

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Filed under Business, Communication, Crisis Management, Customer Relations, Ethics, Management Practices, Opinion, Politics, Public Relations, Religion, Respect, Social Interactive Media (SIM)

Public Relations Techniques That Kill Organizations

In Part I, “Why ‘Managing the Message’ Doesn’t,” we discussed the dangers of trying to ‘manage the message’ in a Social Media world. Part II looks at the techniques used by organizations to manage the message and why they fail.

Organizations that adopt a manage the message policy for Public Relations (PR) assume that they are the controllers and manipulators of the public image of their organization, which demotes the public to the role of a mindless zombie. If that doesn’t sound stupid enough, let’s look at the methods that organizations use to manage the message.¹

[¹ I realize that I’ve used the words Manage the Message five times in the first two paragraphs; however, “insulting PR techniques” isn’t quite specific enough as there are so many of them. ;) ]

Corporate PR:  We manage the message by not listening

Corporate PR: We manage the message by not listening

Anti-listening Techniques
The subtle use of anti-listening techniques is one strategy used by organizations who seek to manage the message. The concept is simple: an organization can’t be held accountable for issues that don’t exist. By not listening an organization can effectively deny existence of an issue because they can claim ignorance, therefore can deny accountability.

One example is the use of formalized procedures for communication from the stakeholders, including the public. An organization might ignore or restrict communication on their Facebook page, requiring complaints and comments to be made through a process that is more complex or requires greater risk to complainer.

EXAMPLE:  From the Facebook page for a Parent/Teacher group of an Elementary School after parents discussed concerns about major changes in the school calendar:

“Please remember that this page is used for the PTC to share PTC sponsored fundraising events and activities. If anyone has comments/complaints about the school they need to be addressed with the administration.”

(From the School’s Marketing Director)

The strategy of denying open discussion of issues allows an organization to divide and conquer people who may object or have a strong reaction to negative events or significant changes. By restricting public comment on their website or Social Media formats such as Facebook, an organization can prevent all but the most committed people from voicing their opinion or concern. For those that do comment, the organization can hide dissent and concerns behind a veil that only they have access to, so the true scope of the issue is hidden from public.

The problem with this technique is that issues or concerns do not go away by ignoring or hiding them. Whether expressed or not the reaction exists and it impacts the public image of the organization. A divide and conquer strategy increases the reaction once people discover that others share their concerns. In the Social Media world, the truth will eventually come out through a disgruntled customer, employee, or other source.  Once the full scope of the deception is exposed the organization will lose all credibility and once the organization loses credibility the public image is also lost.

In January of 2012, the Susan G. Komen Foundation was receiving massive condemnation for a politically charged decision to defund Planned Parenthood. Rather than accepting that the public voice was valid, CEO Nancy Brinker attempted to double down on their position by claiming a bogus conservative-initiated Congressional investigation was reason to deny the grant requests by Planned Parenthood. Her efforts to paint an obvious conservative-motivated action as justified left her and the organization looking like right-wing wackos who had no clue that the organization depended on the perceived goodwill of the public.

By the time they tried to back peddle and fix the problem it was too late. Race For the Cure events in 2012 lost as much as one-third of the participation from the previous year and many donors question the use of their money by the Foundation. The irony is that Nancy Brinker had founded the organization thirty years earlier in her sister’s memory and now the Susan G. Komen name is not so much a symbol of fighting breast cancer as it is a reminder of conservative attempts to use backdoor methods to inflict their religious beliefs on everyone else.

MONDAY: The Dark Side of PR: Distraction and Deception Or ‘Armstronging’ the Public. When ethics are not a consideration, an organization is headed into a downward spiral that will almost always end with a public image that can be fatal. 


Filed under Branding, Business, Communication, Crisis Management, Customer Relations, Customer Service, Ethics, Generational, Information Technology, Internet, Management Practices, Public Relations, Respect, Social Interactive Media (SIM), Social Media Relations, Technology, Traditional Media

Why ‘Managing the Message’ Doesn’t

“What we got here….is a failure… communicate” Captain, the Prison Warden in Cool Hand Luke

Captain (Strother Martin) in 1967 film, Cool Hand Luke knew how to manage the message

Captain (Strother Martin) in 1967 film, Cool Hand Luke knew how to manage the message

If you are a business professor teaching students the importance of  ‘managing the message,’ or a Public Relations (PR) firm telling your client how to ‘manage the message,’ would you please stop. No, I mean stop right now. In fact, contact everyone you have taught or advised and tell them you were wrong then refund their money.

CEO Tony Hayward got his 'life back,' but BP is still in PR clean up mode in the United States

CEO Tony Hayward got his ‘life back,’ but BP is still in PR clean up mode in the United States

‘Managing the message’ cost Mitt Romney the Presidential election. It severely damaged Netflix in 2011. It cost a BP CEO his job. It took the Susan G. Komen Foundation from being a major player in non-profit foundations to one that has to hide its name in shame. 


First, ‘managing the message’ doesn’t work. Second, it’s a cowardly way to approach public relations. Third, it’s stupid advice. Fourth, it will end up causing major problems up to and including the end of an organization.

‘Managing the message’ assumes a person has control over the message. That would be a stupid assumption in a world driven by Social Media. John F. Kennedy’s words should be amended:

You can fool all of the people some of the time….until Social Media picks it up and then you’re screwed.

PR is no longer about creating an image. That was true back in the day individuals had no voice and people were subjected to mass advertising in every thing they watched, heard, and read. That was yesterday. Today an organization’s image is created by everyone who comes into contact with the organization. Customers, especially angry ones have as much of a voice in an organization’s public image as the Vice President of Marketing. Today PR is about listening and being honest and real in everything you say and do. That is something that can’t be faked or managed.

Reaction Avoidance
Managing the message is mostly about reaction avoidance. The idea is that if an organization handles it correctly, any negative situation will be minimized. The technique acts like a dam that has a short-term benefit, but a long-term disaster. When a PR crisis occurs the first instinct is to pretend there is no major problem. That is the start of a PR death spiral that only leads to bigger and bigger denials until the organization appears to be run by fools. By then executives turn and blame the PR staff for not ‘managing the message’ better.

TOMORROW: Public Relations Techniques That Kill Organizations. The two common techniques that characterize an organization who is trying to manage the message and why they fail.

MONDAY: The Dark Side of PR: Distraction and Deception Or ‘Armstronging’ the Public. When ethics are not a consideration, an organization is headed into a downward spiral that will almost always end with a public image that can be fatal. 


Filed under Business, Communication, Crisis Management, Customer Relations, Customer Service, Employee Retention, Ethics, Information Technology, Internet, Management Practices, Opinion, Public Relations, Respect, Social Interactive Media (SIM), Social Media Relations, Technology, Traditional Media