« How did you tell YOUR six-year-old about Hitler's theory of the Master Race? | Main | Employee communication is different ... and so are the E2E Communication Awards »

February 16, 2010


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

David, you're talking about executive coaching, not communication. Not that coaching is any more productive. Maybe we need executive interventions?

Actually, I have to disagree. This IS communication, and it IS bad from the perspective of THIS communicator, anyway.

I read someone's opinion on his show somewhere [maybe Twitter?] and the very good point the person made [sorry I can't remember who - you know, the memory's the first thing to go!]was what does this say to the hundreds of OTHER employees who work there???

The waste management guy apparently [Full disclosure - I haven't watched this show] helped the manager he met to get a better situation to feed her family. But what about all the OTHER employees there who are probably in just as dire straights? The fact that this CEO, as well intentioned as he was, intervened in the situation of one employee has just served to alienate possible dozens of others, who may have already been disaffected by a thankless, low-paying job.

For a senior executive, who supposedly gets the fancy office and the big bucks because he's able to "look at the big picture" and "think strategically" this is one of the dumbest moves I can think of, and as you say David, If I'd been the Comms person for any of these CEOs I'd have advised against having anything to do with this in the STRONGEST POSSIBLE language.

As far as what we're going to do about it, I am fairly sure fire-bombing the offices of stupid people is still illegal, so I'm going to stick with trying to learn from the dismal efforts of these dopes and do some actual communicating for my company.

Kristen, you're encouraging me to actively seek to stay as far as away as possible from entrenching myself in an internal comms viewpoint after nearly 2 years of practice. I'll make sure to keep my previous background in PR, marketing, ad copy, volunteerism and grassroots campaigns as alive as possible as part of my work with the company.

The PR boons of this show are immense. The potential lessons that a communicator can use to further their agenda are immense. If it leads you to say, "I'd have advised against having anything to do with this in the STRONGEST POSSIBLE language," and David passes to buck to others "who boldly declare they wouldn't recommend that their client or company participate in it," then there is a serious problem with employee communicators siloing themselves into a straitjacket.

David's last sentence is a legitimate call to action: "But it seems that I, and others who care about the relationship between employees and management, ought to do something." But it comes sandwiched between his reams of sarcasm (deserved) and sandblasting and your righteousness.

Here's an idea: Take all segregating popular names - advertising, marketing, public relations, speech writing, web content, online media, hr comms, internal comms - relabel them all "communications" and throw them all in one department, let them scratch and howl at each other until kingdom come, and when the dust settles on the catfight they can all benefit the company together, instead of allowing pieces of the company to fall around their feet.

Yeah, I know this is a popular debate now. I think I was just pushed to an extreme here.

Yossi, did you see the Hooters episode? If you think that was a PR boon to the company, then we could have a good conversation just about that. I went in thinking of Hooters as a blight on the blight of American chain-restaurants. Now I think of it as an utterly silly place (with pockets of cruelty) run by a not-very-smart sad-sack.

Kristen may be looking at this from her perspective as an employee communicator, and if so, more power to her elbow as she makes her recommendation to management. You can accuse her of having a silo-mentality, but she is the one who has to write the next CEO's letter to the troops, who because of this show may now respect him or her less than they did before ....

As for me, I'm starting to see this phenomenon as an opportunity for communicators of all stripes: While everybody's watching this show (which is really all about what we do for a living) we can use it as a jumping-off point for all kinds of constructive conversations, with our CEOs, with managers, with the rank-and-file.

And of course, with one another, too.

Let me first say that I have done BOTH internal and external communications for a variety of companies [public and private] in a variety of industries. I would not have advised my CEO to participate in this at ANY of those organizations.

Here's why: Reality TV is in the business of making good television, NOT in presenting your organization in the best, most honest light. Because, here's the thing - in today's screwed-up environment, "good TV" usually means showing negative, salacious things. A sensible, productive, respectful CEO, at a company that treats all its employees well, offers them opportunities to advance and engages them in the business is NOT considered "good TV" by American standards. Do you think it's an accident that "Hooters" was one of the first companies approached?!

As far as this being a PR boon, I have to agree with David. Unless you subscribe to the "any publicity is good publicity" theory I don't see how the Hooters episode especially, but the waste management one too, could be described as presenting these companies to the external world as an organization that:

- approaches the production and delivery of their product in a sensible, honest profitable way;

- is a good employer who treats all their employees in a respectful, equitable manner designed to create loyalty and commmitment and reduce costly turnover

- has an executive team that understands the expectations placed on today's businesses, both public and private and compoort themselves and their business accordingly.

Maybe I'm out of step, but aren't these three things on the agenda of any company hoping to generate "good PR" for their organizations?

I just don't see "Undercover Boss" presenting companies as the serious, reputable businesses I would imagine most of them would prefer to be perceived as.

But, hey. That's just one woman's opinion.

Would I want a PR plan or analysis that shows the ups and downs of doing this? Absolutely. One possible PR benefit scenario: Your company's reputation is so far down in the dumps (say, Hooters) that simply being on a mainstream TV show may legitimize your company. Or studies show that CEOs are out of touch anyway, and this will portray your CEO as getting in touch. But I need to consider the PR aspect on its own, and then weight it with internal considerations and judge if those outweigh the PR benefits. No way that an out-of-hand dismissal due to employee concerns makes sense. Employees can be wrong, too, not just CEOs.

I did not see the Hooters episode. I would never consider it, never consider eating in (a food-wise-kosher version of) it, think it's the close cousin of strip clubs. The fans of Hooters go there for the obvious reason. They don't care about trust-fund CEOs, mistreated waitresses, or any issue an ordinary person might care about. They won't leave because of this TV episode, and some people on the fence might follow their lesser instinct and visit Hooters due to the legitimacy given. Or I might be wrong, and a PR analysis would tell me that.


Points well taken, but you're assuming you can predict what ills, and how severe, will be exposed during the show.

That may actually be the case--CBS may have a really tight deal that gives companies final approval on the show.

But in that case this whole enterprise is pretty much a public fraud that will eventually be exposed. So you'd have to include that in your PR analysis.

Experience tells me that "PR analyses" before the fact or during a crisis are usually educated guesses, and that half of what they "tell" turns out to be bunk.

This isn't a science, and those who pretend it is make bigger mistakes than those who acknowledge it isn't.

(That's my hunch, anyway!)

A few things about reality TV: In reality, it's scripted. Not tightly scripted dialogue the way shows are, but how the scenes will flow, what they're looking for. This has been written up years back. There's also some leeway in where the CEO chooses to go, and if the CEO just walks off set in the middle, the production team won't use that, it's just not good film. So if something is going wrong, and you walk off set, the problem is killed.

Most of life is an educated guess at that. PR can list the potential ups and down and hazard a guess at them. Sometimes employee communicators take a turn at wearing the wizard's hat. Let's respect other disciplines and professionals at their game, and as you said, see how we can use this to move something or someone.

I dig, Yossi. And to you, I apologize in advance for tomorrow's blog post, which will include some intentional light-hearted snark about other communication disciplines, and their inability to quite understand employee communication.

No need to apologize, they snark about us all the time.

as a non-communications person, i actually liked the premise of the show. i could relate to the employees that were involved and it made me think that more CEOs should do this sort of thing (if only they would think of it on their own and without cameras and hype.)

i only watched the waste mgmt episode and believed that the guy was honestly surprised at what he saw and wanted to make changes as a result...however, i lost hope when they showed scenes of his meetings where all the boardmembers were looking at him with blank stares, likely thinking to themselves, "all this coming from the same schmo that required us to cut costs in the first place."

im 16. i need new boots and im shopping at outlet places. they have uggs for around $80, i know they are out of style but they are so comfy, should i get them, if not what kind of boots should i get that are fashionable and comfy? also what type of shoes should i get im thinking pumas or diesels which do you prefer (or something else)? thankyou!

The comments to this entry are closed.

My Photo

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner