The recently published book
by Gerald Baron, Now Is Too Late (Financial
Times/Prentice Hall publisher), discusses the
need for alacrity and proactive strategy in today’s
world of instant news. Citing examples such as Anderson
and Firestone, he discusses the loss of brand equity
through lowered public perceptions – and how such loss
can be minimized.
As the title implies, simple
reaction to media reports is no longer an effective
public relations strategy. Crises must be anticipated
and prepared for.
The book points out that any
company today can be a target. The attack needn’t begin
with a competitor or zealous reporter – virtually anyone
can post malicious rumors about any company on the
Internet. And, without an immediate challenge, those
rumors can be taken as gospel.
One idea Baron proposes is
the “first strike” concept. If you know that word is
about to leak regarding a company event or misfortune,
announce it yourself rather than having the media pick
it up from others sources. In many cases, setting the
record straight from the beginning can keep lots of
annoying questions at bay.
Baron also discusses
“reputation equity” - the ability to build a reputation
that can come in very handy when the heat is on. It is
far better to have media representatives in your corner
before the battle begins than trying to win them over
once the fight is underway.
Baron advocates using e-mail
and a Web presence as effective communications solutions
in times of trouble. The ability to instantly
communicate with both the public and media is no longer
a luxury – it’s a necessity.
No business or company is
immune from the possibility of a sudden attack on its
reputation. Executives who prepare and arm themselves
with today’s tools have a greater chance to ward off
such threats. Reading this book can be a good start.