A recent Wall Street Journal article covered the annual meeting of Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway. One message taken from the gathering was that, no matter how well things seem to be going, it's always a good idea to listen to the naysayers.

At Trylon SMR, we have always agreed with Peter Drucker, who has said that PR is not only the "trumpet" that companies can use to shout at the market, but should also be a "hearing aid" that helps companies listen to their audience.

Buffett reinforced his message at the meeting by inviting a critic (in fact a professional hedge fund manager who is short the company’s stock) to join a panel that was posing questions to management. Most companies in this setting will try to only invite questions from fans, even going to the trouble of scripting questions.

Actively listening to your critics does not require a public forum. In fact, one of the best ways to gauge public opinion is by working with your PR firm to get to the truth of public opinion. In too many cases, PR firms are only too happy to provide the feedback that management wants to hear instead of being, as Drucker called it, “the intermediary of truth.”

Developing and executing a sound and effective PR strategy requires that companies consider the possible public perception of a particular tactic or message. Listening to the market and trusted advisors is a great way to begin focusing on what the message should be and not necessarily what you want it to be.