Yesterday we hosted Daniel Diermeier, author of Reputation Rules, as part of an AMEC webinar series. He’s a professor at the Kellogg School and a reputation consultant to top companies. The attendees were well fed by Dr. Diermeier’s insights and stories and those who missed it can listen to recording of the event.
Prior to the webinar he and I sat down for a good conversation that went beyond the scope we were able to cover in the broadcast. His target for Reputation Rules is clearly the C-suite and boardroom, something that came across in the reading. As such, he put my nose a little out of joint when I read in the opening that corporate reputation was too important to be left in the hands of specialists (which I read as “PR people”) – a point reiterated in multiple chapters. With my guard up, I thought he was dismissing or discounting the role of PR. I was wrong.
In our conversation, in the webinar and as I read further in his book, Dr. Diermeier argues that public relations professionals are key to successful corporate reputation. “The best crisis is the one that never occurred,” is a tweeted quote from the webinar and his argument is that PR’s best role is in prevention. That means preparing the organization, providing product managers, operational managers and the board with “intelligence” – an understanding of reputational risks and how they could play out in public. The next step, he explained in a great example from McDonald’s in France, is to “create facts today that will be the basis of your story in a crisis.” His view is that sound public relations professionals permeate the company, warning and coaching in the halls of power and ultimately shaping operational decisions. PR is not a mere mouthpiece pushed to the pulpit when disaster strikes.
In his words, PR and corporate reputation management need to “move from being a function to being a capability.”
Thinking of my own work at Cision Global Analysts, I smiled to myself as he spoke several times about “intelligence capabilities” and thought of the fact that internally we refer to our most comprehensive deliverable as “Intelligence Reports.” Going forward, I will feel just a little bolder when querying clients about what they are doing with our research, where it goes and how it’s used. I often tell new clients that if they aren’t going to commit ahead of time (before seeing the results) to circulate, present and share the findings, then they shouldn’t bother buying it.
I agree with Dr. Diermeier. A PR pros’ most important work often takes place within the company’s own walls.