Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Do Not Attempt (Trust) Until We Do Some Work

I was invited to give a lunchtime talk to graduate students in the M.S. Program in Public Relations & Corporate Communication at NYU last week. Here are a few excerpts:
When I saw the bar chart below, published at the end of November by Gallup, I knew I had the nugget for my topic.

Though Public Relations is not a separate category, on this rating scale of honesty and ethics, a reasonable extrapolation might be in the range of Journalists at 24% and Advertising Practitioners at 11%. Not good. 

This is not a new trend, of course, as illustrated by this chart from Pew:
But why worry about the journalists? Journalists are still the most credible vehicle to transmit the stories, issues and events PR practitioners wish to appear in the media. If their credibility is shaky then so is ours. This matter of trust transcends public relations; it's one of the hottest topics in business, government and academia. Which led me to say:
It's part of life, I suppose. We know what to do, but many times don't follow through. Intellectually, we know we should exercise and eat more vegetables. And just look at all of the avoidable wounds that professionals, performers and politicians inflict upon themselves. But we can take an active part in reversing the trend of what Bill Margaritis, SVP of global communications and IR at Fedex called "trust destruction."
Again, it's easier said than done because:
We need the right environment, the right training and mentorship in order to gain the insights that allow trusting relationships to be built. Otherwise, we'll go into default mode: survival. And, in many cases, survival means pushing responsibility and accountability onto others.
I've written about fear before; it's powerful. So, how does one fight fear? Whistle a happy tune? Tell a joke? Try some learning instead. If we want to prove we can speak the language, understand the motivations and add value to business, we must act like scientists and explorers.
I told the group that my scientific training gave me an inquisitiveness that never left. A yearn to learn is what everyone should have in any pursuit. Truthfully, if I were ever quizzed on my major subjects in biochemistry and physiology, I'd have to look up a good deal of the the material. What I really took away, though, was the power of asking a good question.
See how happy that little clip art guy is when he's thinking of a question? The questions listed above just scratch the surface but it's crucial that we get into a habit of thinking things through and turning over a few more rocks before we reflexively answer a question or jump into a new situation.

And how can I leave the talk without adding some thoughts from a legendary tale (and mentioning my book, Camelot, Inc.)?
Please feel free to contact me. I'd enjoy hearing your questions and comments.

Thank you!

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