Estimated reading time: 2 minutes, 33 seconds


fractured fairy talesThose old enough to have watched the "Rocky and Bullwinkle" cartoons remember "Fractured Fairy Tales", episodes in which a popular story was spoofed by the cartoon makers. And given the proliferation of media, a company's public relations effort can end up being as far removed from what it wants as these tales were from the original telling.Good PR, in my eyes, focuses heavily on consistency of message. That means a company doesn't want different people giving different versions of the same story in different media. And in these days, there's more media for the message than ever before.


In some ways, PR disorganization and media defragmentation is good for the press. Things slip out that weren't supposed to be known and editors make stories from these errors. That's not necessarily good for the company. But the many different media available for delivering information also make it tough for editors to keep track of information, which eventually is a problem for the company trying to deliver since in a consistent way, since the media doesn't always know where it's going to come from.

Companies release different information in blogs than they do in press releases. Announcements of information that's not available elsewhere slip out on Facebook pages, sometimes scooping a company's own press releases.

The results end up something like this. Imagine instead of sending out three riders, Paul Revere, William Prescott and William Dawes with the same message, the Bostonian revolutionaries sent out a score of riders deliver the following messages: "The British are coming" "The British aren't coming." "They are coming Thursday." "They are coming tomorrow." "We are ready for them." "We haven't got a clue where they are going."

Companies need to know what is being said about them. But the best offense is a good defense in making sure damaging statements aren’t being delivered in the first place, especially by their own employees.

Employees of all levels need to know that what they say has consequences, but I don't think the answer lies in stern warnings or ever-thicker policy manuals that say "Here's what you have to do, but if we get sued, we really can't be held to these policies." It has to come from a true understanding of a company's operations and true collaboration. That's obviously easier with smaller companies and it gets harder as they get bigger.

Consistent messages grow in a healthier way if they stem from positive messages. That means employees have a stake in what is going on because they understand what the company is trying to do and how it tries to do it. Of course the carrots must be accompanied by some sticks – such as “Putting company proprietary information on your Facebook page can be ground for termination”. But willing cooperation beats discipline hand-downs down and workers need to know what is proprietary and what can be said.

Most organizations have their share of boneheads and miscreants, but most mistakes are innocent and most workers want to help their organization succeed. They just need to know how.

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