Research prompted by rising corporate governance issues has found that information conveyed by corporate CEOs ranked the lowest in credibility, far less than that of colleagues, friends and family. It was found that academics ranked much higher in information credibility above that of CEOs.

Actions: Media partnership tips

If you haven’t noticed already, journalists never take stock answers seriously. They are highly intelligent and inquisitive folks who are relentless at finding out the truth. If CEOs are deemed to be lacking in credibility, journalists will seek to uncover the truth from anyone and anywhere.

What then can we do to sustain and maintain public awareness? We have 4 tips.

First, turn everyone in your organization into unofficial spokespersons. Not everyone needs to know everything, or should. But when a journalists calls up and speak to just about any employee, including the front desk receptionist, the call center operator, your technical support engineer, or even the accountant, they ought to be well-trained to at least provide sensible answers. Nobody should say “no comment”, which is often the precursor to bad publicity. Everyone should be media-trained to handle basic, first-tier questions, and know who to direct specific questions to. Send the entire organization (in batches) to a media training camp, and learn the ropes of working with journalists, handling interviews, and managing publicity crises.

Second, build a community of resource persons for your organization in times of need. These resource persons should be established and respected people in specific fields. For example, if you are a pharmaceutical company, engage on a good will, advisory basis (and appropriately honor them publicly), recognized medical experts and research scientists, to be resource persons. You can also invite academics as well. Familiarize them with your organization, your products and services, your executive team and people, so that when the journalists require third party comments, these resource persons can be highly sought after interviewees. Remember, treat your resource persons with respect.

Third, create a corporate culture built on openness and information exchange. No one should be trapped by the lack of information, especially if the information is already found within the same organization! Information exchange is best accomplished with the right communications and knowledge management infrastructure. For example, if you have specific industry knowledge tips and techniques, have the organization set up a good knowledge and content management system so that anyone can contribute to. Authorized users can then tap on these knowledge resources when required, including that of being asked by journalists on specific, technical areas.

Fourth, communicate with journalists regularly. You don’t need formal events or lavish dinners to keep in touch. Journalists are often busier than you are, and an occasional email (no incessant spam please!) to keep the journalists mindful of your organization will be useful enough.

Much as the CEO should be accountable for all things bad and good, there is much more wisdom and expertise in an organization behind the CEO that brings out the public brilliance of a CEO. Never underestimate the effect of an employee within your organization who can make a significant positive impact to your public profile. After all, journalists love stories from people who aren’t official spokespersons.

These are some writings we did in 2003 (published as “DotZen”, a paperback book that was widely publicized), and we extracted some which are still relevant today, in the areas of branding, marketing, sales, publicity, and business improvement. If we find some time outside that of helping our clients grow and taking a rest, we will try to write some more.

Copyright©2003 Seamus Phan & Ter Hui Peng. All rights reserved.