A guest post by Submariner
Being respected only to the extent that you are feared is pure Tucker, but it’s not good for the long term for a retailer. People always have a choice. If the rejection of your plans for a new store in Little Binding is felt by half the town to be a victory for local democracy against the forces of oppression, you’re well on the downslope and it’s time to short the shares. The Tucker doctrine puts you on the opposite side from your customers. In the case of the Tesco crew, they are even on the wrong side of the Blair backlash.
In business and politics alike, times are hard. In the post-bubble economy everything feels like a crisis, and in a crisis the feeling is that anything goes. It’s only human nature to want the comfort of a mythical deadly PR assassin on your side.
But out among the reality-based community, it is not going to help. This is no time for smoke and mirrors, no time for bluster.
The best corporate communication is when the audience sees the business, not the spin apparatus. If you want long term support, take your pain when it’s due. Be frank with your employees, customers, and lenders. Guide expectations to where you think they should be, realistically. Don’t try to put an unrealistic gloss on your losses or revenue reductions.
Educate people about what you can and can’t control in the market. Your business may well be affected by snow, the electoral cycle or the Japanese tsunami, but don’t look as if you’re asking to be excused. Say what the effect has been, when it will drop out of the numbers, and what (if anything) you’ll do differently in the future.
If customers, employees, investors or other stakeholders feel they are being spun a line, they will not give credit even for actual performance and good works. What they will respond to is meaningful management action, backed up by solid facts, good listening and a sense that there are overlapping interests between them and the organisation doing the communicating. No-one ever won trust through intimidation, and fear paralyses better than it motivates.
What politics and the corporate world need more of is the anti-Malcolm. The best communicators are those who concentrate on gathering proper evidence, telling the truth, helping people inside and outside to accept and understand reality, and using their own understanding of the world to help the business make the truth better over time.