A Conscience is a Terrible Thing to Waste
We recently posted our firm’s core values. Some might think that a marketing agency’s core
values should be whatever its clients say they are—“otherwise, shut up.” That might have been fine for Goldstein Group if it hadn’t committed to growing from its roots as a public relations (PR) firm, but any company that adds “Communications” to its name adds an obligation to its services for clients—beyond acting as a mouthpiece. If you look at GGC’s values, three of them deserve the media spotlight as practiced by any company—especially these days, with a number of high-profile p.r. agencies and executives stepping into it (the spotlight that is). They’re doing that because their clients have stepped into it (a spotlight, yes, but also something that’s a bit hotter and messier) and they require their agency’s help cleaning it up.
Those three values I’m highlighting help in that service. They are, listening, learning and meaning-it. Those should be in every marketing firm’s toolbox, filed under “conscience,”—and brought out early in the relationship. Then, if a client steps into a potential PR quagmire, these values will serve both the client and its agency well. Take the case of air bag maker Takata, for example. It made news for the very act of hiring a PR agency to help it deal with the recall of faulty air bags that have been blamed for causing several consumer fatalities.
A story from Automotive News late last year quoted Scott Upham, president of Valient Market Research, which tracks the airbag industry, as saying Sard Verbinnen's hiring “puts a more professional public relations firm in place to handle communications for the company, but raises the question whether CEO Shigehisa Takada will speak on the issue publicly.”
Well, Takada himself made news this week by appearing publicly and stating his company is looking into establishing a victims’ fund. He also said he regretted not offering enough explanations during this crisis, but he wouldn’t step down because he wanted to make sure the problem was fixed.
Another PR nightmare making the news is Donald Trump’s controversial comments about how, as president of the U.S., he would build a wall along the border with Mexico and expect them to pay for it. He wants to protect the U.S. from people who are bringing drugs and crime into the country with them. Of course Trump doesn’t seem to worry about bad PR (adhering to the belief that it’s all good), but bad publicity is a communicable disease, and the companies Trump does business with face the danger of looking bad by association. One of them—NBC—issued a quick bit of PR boilerplate, reading: “Donald Trump’s opinions do not represent those of NBC, and we do not agree with his positions on a number of issues … including immigration.”
I don’t know if Takata’s public mea culpa or NBC’s Trump Cower came out of their own corporate consciences or from heeding the advice of their own corporate mouthpieces, but the result is a reflection of the need for those core values I mentioned above: listening, learning, and meaning-it. Those are good ideas for people as well as for companies—and if applied early enough in their relationships, might keep them from stepping into something hot and messy later on.
Written by Tom Andel:
Goldstein Group agency account manager and content creator who writes with an editor’s mind, a writer’s soul and our clients’ best interests at heart.