Monday, February 13, 2006

CEO PR Men

In a new survey among nearly 4,300 global business executives and recently released in the McKinsey Quarterly, only eight percent believe that large companies champion social or environmental causes out of "genuine concern." Fairly skeptical bunch. Equally disturbing was the finding that almost nine out of ten global executives agree that large companies are motivated by public relations or profitabilty. This is not a pretty picture.

One thing I have noticed over the past several years is how CEOs will qualify their thought leadership platforms by saying "this is not about public relations." Lord John Browne of BP says this a lot in his speeches. Mind you, he is one of the best pr people in the world. BP's "beyond petroleum" campaign has been a brilliant public relations effort to inform people about global warming, alternative fuels and social responsibility.

Citigroup's CEO Chuck Prince's seven second bow heard around the world is another display of whip-smart public relations. Prince wisely acknowledged the role that Citigroup played in Japanese trading scandals and publicly apologized for his company's behavior. His actions (which I applaud) highlighted his values in practice and his commonsense gesture saying he knew how to share the pain.

Public relations is about relating to your various publics. Since when was communicating with your portfolio of publics a bad thing.

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