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How to Destroy Your Organization in One Easy Step

[by Howard Fencl, Hennes Communications]

We’ve facilitated hundreds of seminars to help companies work more effectively with the media and survive social media attacks. In the last few weeks, we’ve had to update our presentations to offer help dealing with the rise of alternative facts and the increasingly nonchalant promulgation of lies.

But a question one of our attendees asked a colleague during a recent Hennes Communications seminar rattled me. It went something like this:

“Given the approach being taken by the likes of Kellyanne Conway and its apparent effectiveness, how do we reconcile telling the truth when it’s obvious politicians aren’t telling the truth, and obviously don’t care about it?”

The short answer is this: if you lie, the truth will inevitably, inexorably catch up with you, destroy your reputation and ultimately tank your business. Period.

The first counsel we give to every client facing a crisis or a controversial issue is to tell the truth, tell it all, tell it first – and tell it fast. There’s a fragile balance between your reputation and the truth. Your reputation is not a squishy, amorphous thing – it has transactional value. If you cultivate a culture of deceit and cover up, how can you expect anyone to do business with you? Think of how many times you have made a transactional decision – whether that’s buying tennis shoes, hiring a plumber, or buying stock – based on whether a brand or company has a good reputation or a bad one.

A recent working paper published by the Harvard Business School examines the relationship of reputation to the long-term survival of organizations in the world’s most challenging business environments. The paper’s overarching takeaway has broad implications for all organizations: a good reputation is a “meta-resource,” helping companies:

• Attract and develop relationships with new customers
• More easily raise financing and gain access to lower-cost capital
• Attract and retain high quality employees
• Increase the ability to choose high quality partners
• Mitigate the impact of negative events

Let me put it even more succinctly: a good reputation is a “meta-resource” that means money in the bank and improves your bottom line. It’s not hard to imagine how that might have value when you decide it’s time to flip your business.

Tell the truth? Your livelihood depends on it.

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