Monday, January 23

Restoring Public Trust

MarketWatch correspondent Thomas Kostigen released his top ten ethics breaches for 2005 last month, demonstrating once again that public leaders and companies that use communication as a means to manipulate will eventually be unmasked.

Five highlights from his list include: former Enron CEO Kenneth Lay for the rationalization campaign that he is not the face of corporate corruption; former FEMA director Michael Brown for blaming Hurricane Katrina failures on New Orleans residents; president of J. Paul Getty Trust Barry Muntz for alleged abuses of nonprofit funds to enhance his lifestyle; Exxon for ignoring shareholders' resolutions calling for it to admit carbon emissions contribute to global warming; and the American Red Cross for making us skeptical of charitable giving after workers allegedly bilked money from Hurricane Katrina victims.

Regardless of any personal opinions that surround these examples, there is little doubt that all of them have contributed to the continued erosion of public trust among private and public organizations. As a result, they reinforce the need for the public and private sector to adopt action models that either restore or preserve trust in the minds and hearts of the public.

One such action model developed by the Public Relations Coalition (a partnership of 19 major organizations representing public relations, investor relations, public affairs, and related communication disciplines) in 2003 still serves as an effective roadmap for creating an environment of accountability. Key points within the document called on corporate leaders to:

• Articulate a set of ethical principles that are closely connected to their core values and business processes and are supported with deep management commitment and enterprise-wide discipline.

• Create a process for transparency and disclosure that is appropriate for their company and industry in both current and future operations, including oversight committees, culture audits, and consistent messaging.

• Make trust and ethics a board-level corporate governance issue and establish a formal system of measuring trust that touches all parts of the organization.

Simply put: establish standards and adhere to them; encourage open communication and timely disclosure; and develop the appropriate mechanism to measure progress. It makes sense. Most breakdowns in trust occur not because of true ethical breach within the company but rather when the organization or its leadership seem to be shrouded under a veil of secrecy or are responsible for inconsistent/inaccurate messaging. In other words, sometimes it is not what you are saying, but what you haven't said that will determine how well your organization preserves public trust every day and during times of crisis.

Monday, January 16

Speaking Of Dreams

"I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: 'We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.' I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slaveowners will be able to sit down together at a table of brotherhood. I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a desert state, sweltering with the heat of injustice and oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice. I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream today." -- Martin Luther King, Jr.

Martin Luther King, Jr. was a great thinker, writer, and speaker. He delivered these words with such intense clarity and emotion that they captivate people today as much as they did on the day he spoke them on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial (August 28, 1963). It was following this speech that Martin Luther King, Jr. was credited with mobilizing supporters of desegregation, prompting the 1964 Civil Rights Act, and solidifying his receipt of the Nobel Peace Prize.

He knew, as a few talented speech writers still know, that every speech must be written, rehearsed, and rewritten until it sounds exactly right to the ear. They always use everyday language that is easily understood and create mental pictures so they can better understand the words. They avoid an overuse of statistics and call listeners to take action. They are emotional, effectively using pauses and/or humor, as appropriate to drive key points home. And above all, great speeches demonstrate the power of communication and its ability to change behavior or shape the direction of a nation.

For more examples of great speeches delivered for the betterment of mankind as Martin Luther King, Jr. intended (as well as some speeches that had the opposite effect), visit Great Speeches of 20th Century.

Monday, January 9

Getting Back To Basics

When I originally started this blog in 2005, I intended it to provide supplemental information for the class I teach every spring for the Division of Educational Outreach at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV). With the 11-week course beginning again this Jan. 19 (7 p.m. to 9 p.m., Thursdays), I realized it was time to et back to basics and end my blog hiatus.

For anyone interested, the course, Writing for Public Relations, is a skills development class that emphasizes the application of practical writing and strategic communication skills to real-life case studies and experience. I also stress the importance of approaching public relations from a journalistic perspective. The class carries 1.80 continuing education credits. For more information or to register prior to Jan. 18, visit unlv.edu or call UNLV at 895-3076.

As for the hiatus, the only explanation I can offer up is that our company has had a very busy holiday season, which seems to be a promising precursor for our 15th anniversary. Right. Copywrite, Ink. turns 15 this year. Our new web site may still in development because I'm infusing an interesting proportion/composition concept into the design, we have been quietly nurturing some quality accounts and producing some results-oriented communication materials: print, electronic, and behind-the-scenes strategic. Some of these projects will be highlighted in our electronic portfolio upon its completion.
 

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