PR’s PR Problem

Don Silver, COO, BoardroomPR

PR professionals are talking and have been for the past 18 months or so. “Can you believe this guy?” can be heard at the local PRSA meetings and company conference rooms, alike.

We have witnessed the undoing of generally accepted political and business communications practices. Prior to President Trump’s election and throughout his presidency, what impact has he had on reputation and management principles and strategies? Not much. However, while our president thrives on chaos and the shock value delivered in his Tweets and speeches, his approval ratings have gone down, but with no apparent loss of support from his base. CEOs of public and private companies do not have the luxury of what appears to be an ironclad four-year term. They have important constituencies who will not tolerate irresponsible rantings, bad behavior and ill-conceived, off the cuff ideas and rancor.

Just ask John Schnatter, the founder of Papa John’s Pizza. His single sentence racial faux pas sent him for a loop, losing the support of his board of directors, customers and the university he loved and supported for decades.

Consider Elon Musk’s Tweet-a-thons claiming his company was going private. In the short term, the stock rallied + 6.2 percent, but once Wall Street investors questioned his ability to achieve this, and his own board seemed uninformed about the planned move, the stock tumbled, and he is now the subject of a Securities & Exchange Commission investigation. Do you think government regulators are constituents of public company leadership? You bet they are. So is Tesla’s executive management team. When Musk appeared on video smoking what appeared to be a joint during a Sept. 5 podcast, two key executives resigned and the stock took another 6 percent hit.

Other top business executives and celebrities learned how quickly support from their fans, industries, boards and team members could go south, leading to hypersonic reputation destruction and ultimately, unemployment. Just ask #MeToo Movement hall of shame members Les Moonves, Harvey Weinstein, Morgan Freeman, Tony Robbins, Mario Batali, Russel Simmons, Matt Lauer, Kevin Spacey. . . and the list goes on. All were giants in their professions.

These examples should be more than adequate to tone down the CEOs and entrepreneur cowboys looking to make a quick name for themselves.

Some of the tried and true methods to grow reputations and brands without taking unnecessary risks include:

(1) Stand for something bigger than your product, service or persona such as solving an important problem or helping out your community.
(2) Become a thought leader in your industry, focused on best practices, quality, forecasting the future or implementing the latest technology. Take on a leadership role in a key trade organization or get published.
(3) Develop solid relationships with industry, business and local journalists and make yourself available; never hide or say no comment.
(4) Become a good and active listener.
(5) Attract and build the best management team and workforce and treat them well.
(6) Get involved with the company’s digital and social campaigns and monitor them. Pay attention to online reviews.
(7) Develop a crisis management plan.
(8) Follow The Golden Rule: Treat others the same way you want to be treated.

There is a reason companies have outside PR consultants, executive management teams and boards of directors. The old saying, “Everyone needs an editor,” is still very relevant today and so is sleeping on your new idea or first draft instead of impulsively posting on Twitter. President Trump is to be thanked for providing crisis managers with almost daily examples of what not to do as a respected leader.

About the Author: Don Silver is COO of Boardroom Communications (BoardroomPR) and co-leader of the firm’s busy Crisis Management Department.  Boardroom is an integrated PR and digital marketing agency with offices in Fort Lauderdale, Miami, West Palm Beach, Orlando, Tampa and Naples. For more information, visit