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Sunday, December 03, 2006

Say something when you talk to me

A blogging study published by Edelman Public Relations and Technorati within the past year, Public RelationSHIPS: Communications in the age of personal media, resonated with me when I read it today. It's interesting to me that the study came to the same conclusion that I did earlier this week (before I even read the study): Humility and honesty in communications are essential, and communications fail miserably when they are absent.

"The best preparation for spokespeople has been a 'message triangle' in which all questions can be worked back to a set of mutually supporting concepts, vetted in advance through focus groups or field research. This type of disciplined approach minimizes the chance of error. The tightly controlled approach is also based on periodic interaction with stakeholders, which caters to a company’s need to determine when that interaction begins and ends...

"Every consumer can tell the difference between an over-scripted spokesperson and one who is speaking from the heart. Empower companies to be human, which often means admitting error. Local executive teams should have more leeway to speak freely, without having to check every action with headquarters. Interaction should be continuous and conversation conducted according to stakeholder needs."
Put simply, we know when someone is blowing smoke, especially when they won't directly respond to a question. Transparency and honesty are becoming essential (and they should have been all along) in communications, and that's a big change for public figures. The best way to reach other people is to engage rather than to avoid.

I won't belabor this point because it's been well addressed earlier this fall, but Edelman's own staff members reinforced this point about openness and integrity in communications when they were exposed as secretly preparing a blog for Wal-Mart that was intended to appear independent.

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