Friday, January 19

Lacking A Message: SCO

As an investor, you might think twice about a tech company that seems to spend more on legal counsel than on research and development. In the communication world, we might wonder too, when the only news to offset the company’s continued losses is an audio postcard for mobile phones.

I’m not saying an audio postcard isn’t interesting (though I don’t think I’m in the target audience), it’s just not enough to offset what amounts to a net deficit in good news vs. bad news. (I sincerely hope they get something else off the drawing board).

You see, while I don’t enjoy reading about companies in trouble, there seems to be growing cause for coverage from Slashdot and Groklaw that suggests SCO is in deep trouble, with the company saying very little to correct the idea. (Although there is one denial, reported by CNET reporter Graeme Wearden.)

What is odd about SCO's lack of a message is that it has a history of correcting people, an entire page of its Website is dedicated to “recent” media corrections (most pertain to events in 2004). The page makes me wonder about the public relations logic in making media corrections a permanent part of their communication strategy, doubly so because they called it “recent,” as if to allude that more corrections were expected.

Sure, some might give the company kudos for correcting flawed reporting, and in some cases, I might be one of them. However, if erroneous reporting seems to be the rule as opposed to the exception, it’s time to start asking if "you" might be part of the problem.

When assessing what the media says about you or your client, here are a few questions to ask: 1. What did I say (or not say) that might have contributed to the inaccuracy? 2. Was the story fair, given the context and depth of the story, allowing for opinions from both sides? 3. Did the media give the story appropriate time and space and, if not, why was I unable to make my case that certain points were critical to the story?

These are just a few from a longer list, but suffice to say that when the media gets it wrong, spokespeople and public relations professionals have to accept some of the responsibility. Why? Because the truth is that most spokespeople are unprepared for interviews and few have any objectives outlined before they take the call. In fact, almost no one tries to correct what they said immediately after an interview (probably because they don't remember what they said anyway).

That's too bad because if you do listen to what you are saying, there might be time to follow up. You never know when a quick post interview e-mail to a reporter might be readily welcomed. Most reporters just want to get the story right.

While I am not sure that a few bad interviews started the communication problems at SCO, it does seem safe to say that there is an abundance of miscommunication surrounding the company and that miscommunication has irreparably damaged its brand.


Rich on 1/19/07, 7:46 PM said...

Famous Last Words:

"In other words, to paraphrase a line from Mr. Twain, the rumors of our death have been greatly exaggerated." — Darl McBride, President and CEO, SCO Group, in a letter to customers and partners on Jan. 12, 2007, mistakenly dated 2006.


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