PR is overrated! Rather, let me say that while organisations may budget and spend huge sums of money to portray positive images externally, the solution to some of the fundamental communication challenges lies with their faceless employees. These people comprise the “first responders”, the initial staff one encounters before getting to the higher echelons where specific services are offered.
A couple of months ago, I walked into the lofty offices of a leading media house in Nairobi’s central business district. A few days earlier I had talked to a classified sales executive who had advised me to meet him so that he could guide me on the technicalities of formatting and costing the ad.
I met two ladies at the reception desk and requested to see the invitee. One of the ladies at the reception, for a reason I could not understand, rudely interjected an otherwise pleasant conversation with her colleague, with questions that portrayed me as a nuisance or impostor. I tried hard not to stoop to her level, but felt reduced to a busybody.
Unfortunately, I had no choice. In the eyes of the public, the imposing media house can do no wrong. However, I believe am not alone; there could be a number of us out there who have been mishandled by such impolite staff. It simply needs someone irked enough to publicly escalate such an incident for the company’s reputation to start going south.
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Security personnel, the cadre that we usually call watchmen, are also critical PR stakeholders in any organisation. Due to lack of customer relations skills and low level of education, many of them rub clients the wrong way. This can have very grave consequences for repeat clients, including negative word of mouth which can spread like forest fire.
Suffice it to say that some brands are still in a leadership position in the market for lack of better options. In a quest to “protect” their staff, the arrogant attitude portrayed by the front office lady in the media house was that of, I can take a hike; they have more important business or people to attend to. There is no brand that is so strong that it cannot fall from negative publicity by mishandling clients.