The Trusted Strategic Advisor’s Advisor July 2019 Edition Dear friends and colleagues, Welcome to July. Hope you all had a safe and enjoyable July

          Web Version  
linkedin twitter youtube

The Trusted Strategic Advisor’s Advisor

July 2019 Edition

Dear friends and colleagues,

Welcome to July. Hope you all had a safe and enjoyable July 4th weekend. This is the time of year when companies are often quite visible sponsoring or participating in celebration activities across the country. It’s also a time when there is an outbreak of injuries and victims created during this robust national holiday.

shutterstock 668359483

It's this annual outbreak of adversity that brings to mind one of the more serious issues organizations face when they do things in the community to add to their so-called goodwill bank: the risks and hazards potential for adverse side effects of community gifts.

The value of goodwill banking is over rated, and oversold. Two major reasons those of us in public relations have pushed on this idea for years and those we work for and advise for have, for years, willingly and frankly overbought. The intentions of each party are different. The sponsor assumes that their good deeds can mitigate in every circumstance. But when it comes to the crucial community beliefs, all the generosity in the world will probably have limited value.

One illustration some years ago involved a company who had a tremendous track record of providing Little League uniforms and equipment across a wide area of the country where the sponsoring company operated. The CEO of this company had been a product of the Little League program. Even before he became CEO he had helped his company to provide literally thousands of uniforms and equipment for Little League activities; the major focus of his company’s community activity.

My phone rang on a Sunday, July 5th, afternoon and I was invited to join a telephone call with the senior executives of this company which had come under public attack the previous evening for a product defect that had injured a number of people, some seriously. Some employees had complained publicly about the company's ignoring certain manufacturing steps that would have made the product safer.

The company’s initial response revolved around being a good corporate citizen for decades. Management was publicly puzzled about why, in light of such an enormous civic contribution, their integrity was being questioned at all, much less by employees. The company was saying things like, “it could happen to any company,” and “there were similar incidents in the past, yet these companies were never criticized so viciously”.

When I joined the conversation there was a debate raging over the inaccuracy of the stories and the propriety of such reporting in view of the company's stellar track record. I was introduced on the call and the conversation continued. I listened for a few minutes and then someone asked me what my opinion was, but more importantly, what they should do next? Earlier that Sunday morning it was reported that a child had died of injuries from the products. So, I responded with a question, "How many Little League jerseys are equal to the death of a single child? Or two, or three?"

That, of course, started a whole new discussion for which the company's internal public relations advisors were taken to task for overpromising what all of this civic activity would accomplish, prevent or cover for.

There were a few negative comments, “who let this guy in?”, “does he know what he’s talking about?”, and “who would really ask these kinds of questions?”

“The boy’s family, for one,” I interjected. “Anybody in this call have children?” I asked.

What ensued was a more focused conversation, an all too rare occurrence during corporate social responsibility planning. The conversation included topics like analysis of risk, hazards, and foreseeable collateral damage in the event of an adverse event. This is a conversation all organizations should have about the value, limits, and risks of so-called, “goodwill bank" efforts.

Read about the limitation and risks of goodwill bank's here:


Hi. I don't believe we have ever had the pleasure of meeting however after 27 years in the industry, I just read your book, "Why Should the Boss Listen to You?," and LOVED it. It is excellent and although I realize it was written several years ago, this sage wisdom and counsel is evergreen. I don't know why I didn't know about it sooner but would have benefited greatly from it, sooner.

I have had agency roles in the past such as NA CEO of MSL (part of Publicis), NY GM, global account director for P&G and president of the PR Council -- boy could I have used this book as I was learning, failing and advancing in my career.

I'm currently an adjunct at NYU teaching a course called "PR Consulting." I'm having my students read your book as part of their required course reading.

Just had to tell you how much I enjoyed this book and if there is ever anything I can do to help spread the word on it, I will. I think the global agencies -- especially -- would benefit from having their rising stars read this. (Do you have any other supplemental material that goes with this by the way?)

-An Adjunct Professor at NYU

More People Are Talking....

Hi Jim, just finished reading your post about what makes a Fellow a Fellow. So well said, but then that's what I have always expected and gotten from you. You are truly one of the best practitioners in our profession, and one of the people I've always learned something from no matter how many times I've heard you present. Thank you.

-A Distinguished Professor of Public Relations at a Major University


2019 Upcoming Appearances

October 17th, 2019: 12:00pm ET - IABC Circle of Fellows Podcast, Episode 50, Shaping the consultant/client relationship

December 19th, 2019: 12:00pm ET - IABC Circle of Fellows Podcast, Episode 52, The mutual benefits of being an effective adviser and coach

2019-Blog  1