Best Practice Insights: Include PR Implications in Decision-Making Processes

by Justin Grensing, Esq., MBA

 

In recent weeks there have been multiple high-profile instances of company policies garnering unwanted national attention.

In July, BuzzFeed laid off 15 percent of its staff. Shortly thereafter, hundreds of current and former BuzzFeed staff sent an open letter to BuzzFeed CEO Jonah Peretti and other high-ranking staff decrying the company’s decision not to pay most of the laid-off staff for accrued, but unpaid, PTO.

In February, Instacart faced backlash and had to back down over its recently-enacted policy of decreasing the amount of money it contributes to worker base pay based on the size of employee tips.

Both of these incidents made headlines and outraged not just current, former and outgoing employees, but the general public as well. But why? These practices weren’t directed at the public or at consumers. Yet, still, they have an impact. That impact can result in brand damage.

Considering public perception is important for companies of any size, in any industry. The things you do—even when directly internally—make a difference in terms of how you’re perceived in a number of ways.

Doing the Wrong Thing

Consumers want to know that their money is going to good—or at least not bad—companies. It’s human nature. We prefer to align ourselves with good vs. bad ideals, values, and companies. Being seen as cheating employees out of money, whether or not that characterization is accurate, is bad for business.

Impact on Potential Employees

Companies like Instacart, Uber, Lyft, etc., are potential employers for virtually anyone in the gig economy. It’s easy for many people to put themselves in the shoes of those employees. Not only do these types of actions make a company look bad from a moral standpoint as noted above; it also diminishes the pool of potential applicants. Who wants to work for someone they think will stiff them?

Potential for Diminished Service/Quality

As noted above, it’s likely harder to find willing employees if your business has a reputation for being unfair. Fewer applicants can lead to lower quality employees and, as a result, lower quality products or service. In the case of Instacart, if your customers knew their tips weren’t going to the people performing the service, would they expect those workers to go out of their way to earn tips in the first place?

 

It’s important to note that no issues is ever completely one-sided, and it’s unfair to paint BuzzFeed and Instacart as evil conglomerates. In the case of BuzzFeed, most states permit companies to do exactly what they did with regard to accrued PTO. And in the case of Instacart, employees have the option to work for someone else if they don’t like the compensation scheme. But, of course, what matters from a marketing perspective is perception. And the perception of these two companies recently took a hit.

How could you improve your internal decision-making processes to incorporate consideration of potential PR impact. Doing so explicitly by building these considerations into your processes can help you avoid or minimize negative brand perceptions.

About Us

Strategic Communications, LLC, works with B2B clients to help them achieve their goals through effective content marketing and management with both internal and external audiences. We are adept at evaluating and analyzing communication efforts and working with clients to plan, create and publish high-quality, unique content, through both on- and offline media to achieve desired results. Our background in business journalism, marketing, PR/media relations and online communications makes us well-positioned to serve the needs of 21st-century marketers.

We serve clients who are looking for help creating content for a wide array of channels—from social media posts to full-length manuscripts, and everything in between. We focus primarily on service-related B2B topics and work with a number of independent consultants interested in building their thought leadership through online channels. For ongoing content management, our first step is to fully understand your goals, objectives and competitive landscape.

Then we’ll conduct a thorough analysis and assessment of your digital presence, compared to competitors, and recommend a communication strategy to achieve your goals. But, we also regularly take on individual projects – white papers, blog posts, contributed articles, etc. If you’re interested in learning more, let us know!

(Strategic Communications is certified as a Woman-Owned Business Enterprise through the Wisconsin Department of Administration.)

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