Bill Sledzik suggested to me several weeks ago that I take a look at Jim Horton’s blog Online Public Relations Thoughts. I’m glad I did. Jim has excellent insights about public relations, and he provides good links to other blogs and information. He also apparently posts a lot around 4:30 a.m. or so. Good. I view 7:30 or 8 a.m. as midday.
I was going to add a comment to Jim’s posting yesterday about Bear Stearns “The Cost of Incredulity.” But either he doesn’t allow comments or I couldn’t figure out how to do it. Doesn’t matter.
He focused on themes that I believe get right to the heart of public relations: trust, character and credibility.
And in the context of other remarks about the Bear Stearns situation, he writes:
“How much could public relations have done to save Bear Stearns? Little, it turns out. The bank tried to calm investors, but fear and greed ruled. The bank did not have enough friends to stand by it in the end.”
I’ll take that a step further. I don’t believe there was anything public relations could have done. Bear Stearns went belly up because of pathetically inept and arrogant management that apparently made one bad decision after another. If the management group had stepped aside last week, maybe effective public relations could have helped. If the bank had any credibility left at that point — which I doubt. And as I mentioned in my post yesterday, I still think that something smells about the announcements Bear Stearns made last week. But I’ll let that go. Clearly there are bigger fish to be fried at this point.
Anyway, this is why management and leadership matter. I get so tired of hearing people (and reporters) say that (fill in the blank here with the name of any organization) has a public relations problem. Ah, no. Once you hear or read that you can be assured that the organization has a management problem.
And ask the 14,000 Bear Stearns employees what they think today. Here’s from an article written by Associated Press reporters Dan Seymour and Eileen Aj Connelly:
“Employees own about a third of Bear Stearns, which means the company’s plight has bled its roughly 14,000 workers’ portfolios by $3 billion this month alone and more than $5 billion this year.”
I’ll bet that if you asked those employees most would still think highly of Bear Stearns — but not the management team that caused this debacle.
Trust. Character. Credibility. Jim, you’re right. And in every organization it has to start at the top.