Sunday, October 18, 2009

"When all else fails, try the Truth - Redux"

This afternoon, it was confirmed that the "balloon boy" incident was a hoax. The most amazing thing to me was that anyone ever thought otherwise. Having done communications and public relations for my whole career, I have found that it's pretty easy to tell when someone wants attention for their own benefit rather than for a "greater good." The surprising thing about the hoax was that it wasn't obvious to just about everybody that this family had a long history of attention-seeking.

The sad thing is that we "have made our own bed". The combination of the 24-7 news cycle and the general interest in drama and sensation have led to people like this family who exploit the system. Moreover, I suspect that ultimately they will benefit somehow from this great amount of attention, even if they have to wade through some mud to reach their goal.

It's ironic that I am concerned about this. After all, at Roeder-Johnson, we are in the business of helping companies get noticed. But, for better or worse, we believe there is a certain standard. I often joke about the fact that my motto is "when all else fails, try the truth." But it's actually not a joke. We believe that you start with the truth. The market ALWAYS figures it out. And companies are better off managing their perceptions based on the truth rather than apologizing or correcting themselves later.

So how do we rationalize communicating within this drama-driven world and staying with the truth. They are not mutually exclusive. Most companies have stories that are full of drama on several levels and, over time, can garner attention. And in the meantime, by communicating who they REALLY are, they are getting to the constituents they need to influence.

So, I am hoping that the sensation of the balloon boy doesn't encourage more such hoaxs. But, unfortunately, I am afraid it will.

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