Executives don't intend to offend when they post messages, do a broadcast interview, approve an ad, or even like someone else's post. They want to promote and protect their brand; generate good will with clients, customers, or employees; or clarify the company's position. So how does it go so wrong for some people?
- They make wrong assumptions about their target audience.
- The company takes a position that doesn't match the expectations of stakeholders.
- They use language, images or videos that offend segments of their audience.
- They don't have a diverse enough executive team. Race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, and age all factor into a diverse team. The CEO may not be offended by the ad copy in front of him, but how do others on the team feel?
- They think internal messaging will stay in-house.
- They are too slow to correct course.
- They play the blame game.
- They hate the media and don't know how to work media relations to their advantage.
Here are some recent examples of what I believe is bad messaging:
- The Russian Chess Federation blames a child whose finger was broken by a robot opponent. Sure, they said it was bad, but then a spokesperson went on to say the boy made his move too quickly and the robot's arm pinched him. He added the seven year old broke the rules. Really?
- When major luggage problems at Frankfurt Airport occurred, the airport chief blamed too many black suitcases. He reasons that many look alike and it takes longer to identify them--thus the slowdown. Flyers have been packing black luggage for decades. So it's now the passengers' fault?
- Bruce Springsteen's every guy image took a bit of a hit when it was disclosed that Ticketmaster was selling some of his tickets for $4000-$5000. The ticket provider said it's SOP and his management team says most tickets are $200. That may be. But, I would have liked for the Boss to issue a personal statement to his loyal fans.
The good news for other executives and decision makers is that you can learn from others' mistakes. And you can be proactive when it comes to your messaging. In a media training session you can learn how to craft your messages and how to stay on message. It's also a chance to learn about media relationships and how to take control of media interviews. In a group session, your executive team can bounce ideas off one another in a safe environment.