Can’t Take It Back

reputationDo you remember learning the hard lesson that once you say something, whether it was in anger or not, you can’t take it back?
Nowadays, it is even harder to deny you said something as social media and the Internet allow for a record of everything, as Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert show us on a regular basis.
As a communicator, one takes great pains to ensure that anything created for a client, company, etc., is factually correct, written well, reviewed, approved, and every “i” is dotted and “t” crossed BEFORE it is distributed. We have done our research, cultivated relationships with journalists, understand the audience as well as the client’s objectives.
Our client’s reputation is on the line but I humbly submit that our reputation is on the line as well! With all due respect, the relationships we build help our clients achieve their goals and build their brand.
Let me share a true story with you so that you understand my thought process.
As part of a project, I was charged with distributing a press release about a product that was being launched. The team lead decided to give a growth experience to a younger person who wrote the release. In addition, the release was to reference the partner the company was working with on the new product. Fine by me. Everyone needs to learn how to write a press release at some point.
When I was handed the release to distribute, I immediately reviewed it and started asking questions such as,
  • “Has this been reviewed and approved by the VP and Legal?”
  • “Has this been reviewed and approved by the partner since we are mentioning them?”
  • “Is this going to be a joint press release?”
  • “Do we have their boiler plate?”
  • “Is there a specific distribution list you want this submitted to, someone to be added?”
(I also had questions regarding edits, etc., to make it more newsworthy versus an ad, but was shut down.)
After an extensive discussion regarding final copy and approvals, it was ready to be distributed. I took the time to send an individual email to each editor with a personalized short note. (This was an executive decision on my part as I’d been told that all I had to do was send one mass email. Shoot. Me. Now.) And, I posted appropriate posts on the company’s Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+ accounts. Video was posted to YouTube. Links were in the release. In short, I did everything as appropriate and professional as possible.
One week later, I receive a call from the VP asking why the release is on a magazine’s web site that has nothing to do with our industry and in addition, why it has an incorrect picture associated with it, along with incorrect branding, which has ticked off the leaders of the partner who agreed to be named in the release. I tell him that the correct release was sent out, that this magazine is not on my distribution list, and that there are a number of ways the magazine could have picked up the release (it’s on the web, you know). He then asked if I would I please give the company a call and have them take it down?
Now that you’ve caught your breath, he then goes on to tell me that the partner we reference in the release did NOT approve being mentioned in the release. (Jaw drop)

Then, the young person who wrote the release walked into my office and told me that she had updated the WEEK-OLD release and that I need to send a retraction to every editor I sent the original release to – A WEEK AGO!
Needless to say, I did not fulfill her request.
Now that you know the story, I am back to the point of this post. While a communicator’s job is to help the client achieve its goals and build its brand, the communicator has a reputation as well.
If a client doesn’t take your counsel seriously, how far do you go before you say “no, this will hurt me more”?

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Susan Cellura is a marketing communications professional with over 20 years of experience. She is a dynamic communications professional and enthusiastic team-builder, with a progressive history of success in designing and implementing communications programs for global organizations. A strategic thinker with the ability to understand the needs of multiple audiences and deliver solutions, Susan is a results-oriented problem-solver with exceptional interpersonal and negotiation abilities. Having worked in a variety of global industries, she has grown business communications in her current position via a strong mixture of strategic resources, including social media.

2 thoughts on “Can’t Take It Back”

  1. One doesn’t even *quite* know where to start in commenting on all the, ahem, let’s just call them “less that ideal” decisions made in the course of this scenario.

    But, to respond to your ending question, I think it largely depends on what the situation is with the work and how “client” is defined.

    For example, most of my career as a communicator has been as a permanent employee in various corporate environments. In that situation, you don’t really have the ability to put your own perspectives in front of the expectations and needs of the business. Basically, you work for the business and unless you live at the top of the house, you probably aren’t making final decisions on who does what, when and how.

    That said, of course, any communicator who takes their work and the – hopefully successful – results of that work seriously, is going to advocate strongly for doing the right thing and making sure the right t’s get crossed and i’s dotted.

    Ultimately though, when you work in corporate you can work hard to build strong relationships so the people you counsel will hopefully trust and take your advice, and you can advocate assertively for the actions that will help put the organization’s best foot forward. But if the decision-makers choose not to follow your advice there’s not much you can do about it . . . other than make certain that the recommendations you made, and that were declined, are thoroughly documented for when the results don’t turn out as expected.

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