19 12 2007

I know that’s not a pretty word but a former client of mine used it (about fifteen times) in a presentation a few years back and now it jumps into my head every time something doesn’t quite add up. Anyway, the point is that something has been bugging me for a while about the changing world of PR and it was only when I attended a webinar a couple of weeks back on ‘managing risk in the enterprise’ and later saw a blog posting from Charles Arthur on dealing with a [PR] crisis, that I pieced it all together…

I keep hearing (both inside the world of PR and elsewhere) that effective businesses need their smartest people to take risks. Entrepreneurs tell stories that ‘made them’ of facing critical decisions leading to either immediate dismissal or huge recognition and glory (funny how you don’t tend to hear from the ones that got fired). The message is always take a risk, make some scary decisions and be bold and confident. The world needs people to take risks… apparently.


Charles Arthur talks about “the PR world really struggling with the decentralised nature of media information-gathering” and how a speedy response can only be achieved when there isn’t a huge reliance on securing central approval. And this is where I am struggling because approvals processes seem to be getting more rigorous rather than less so. More and more people seem to need to be involved in signing off a message, or even a response – and don’t get me started on letting a non-approved spokesperson speak to anyone, including their own mother. Maybe it is the post-Enron, Sarbanes Oxley driven world that we live in but I think there are fewer risk-takers (especially in corporate communications) not more.

So, with new and different audiences to talk to, something has got to give. I really think that those companies that make it difficult to communicate with these new audiences will find that their ‘wall of silence’ will be met with customers taking their business elsewhere. Imagine if you went into a shop to ask questions but were ignored completely. But for that to happen, a massive mind-shift is needed amongst both the communicators and those that pay they salaries.

The real risk to be encouraged lies with those people granting the communicators the freedom to actually communicate.




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