Rock Products

JUN 2013

Rock Products is the aggregates industry's leading source for market analysis and technology solutions, delivering critical content focusing on aggregates-processing equipment; operational efficiencies; management best practices; comprehensive market

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More Clear vs. Less Clear Some People Lead and Some Mislead When it Comes to Public Relations. By Thomas J. Roach Some public relations practitioners brag about being able to mislead, and others are proud to say they would never deliberately mislead anyone. Which side are you on? Almost everyone in the field has supe‐ rior communication skills; what sepa‐ rates the professionals from the others is how they choose to use those skills. The choice presents itself early in everyone's career. Lying is problematic if not illegal in business situations. That's not the choice. It is more the choice between accuracy and exaggeration, politeness and flattery, sincerity and misdirection. Professional communicators are Jedi word warriors, and they all decide at some point if they believe in the power of the bright side or the dark side of the force – to make the com‐ munication environment more clear or less clear. durable, long‐term relationships with their employees, customers, shareholders, neighbors, legislators, regulators and their industry. It is not just about trust; it is about continuity and integrity and perma‐ nence. We live in a world of information built and held together with inter‐ locking word molecules. Just as our industry knows that stone means dura‐ bility, seasoned managers and profes‐ sional communicators should know that business relationships need to rest on perceptions and arguments that will not rot, shrink or rust when they are tested by changes in the environment. The more clear vs. less clear problem is most apparent when businesses make major adjustments. Senior lead‐ ership talks about employees as part of a family, and then announces lay‐ offs with no warning. Those who work in journalism and public relations or teach these sub‐ jects at universities and work with students on projects know that every‐ one in the field makes this choice. It produces a pattern of behavior that traces through a career and even de‐ fines whole organizations. Changes in product quality, distribu‐ tion or availability are anticipated, but not announced to customers until they are imminent. Long range plans for the quarry require expansion, but the community first learns about it from attorneys applying for a zoning variance. Universal Problem The universal problem with making things less clear is that it creates an unstable decision‐making environ‐ ment. The more accurate the informa‐ tion, the better the choices we make. At some point it may seem easier to not communicate or to mislead publics, but in the end the communi‐ cation is made more difficult and the outcome is compromised as a result. Less accurate information may help avoid short‐term problems, but com‐ panies that place survival over next quarter's profits know they need 44 ROCKproducts • JUNE 2013 The Best Way The best way to avoid the temptation to miscommunicate is to make long‐range plans available to all four key publics. The Securities and Exchange Commis‐ Thomas J. Roach, Ph.D., has 30 years experience in communication as a journalist, media coordinator, communication director and consultant. He has taught at Purdue University Calumet since 1987, and is the author of "An Interviewing Rhetoric." He can be reached at thomasjroach@gmail.com. sion enforces guidelines that keep shareholders informed, why not apply the same standards with all publics? Put community leaders on an advisory board and discuss expansion and building imperatives. Don't use the employee newspaper as a marketing tool. Tell employees about the health of the company and under what cir‐ cumstances layoffs would become a consideration. Adjust financial incentives to make sales staff accountable not just for yearly sales quotas, but also for main‐ taining long‐term relationships with customers. On a personal level, sending direct, ac‐ curate messages is partly a matter of respect. Misleading others is an act of arrogance. A lot of problems can be avoided by reminding oneself that the smartest person in the room might just be the legislator, the journalist, the cus‐ tomer or the hourly employee. E www.rockproducts.com

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