It is Monday April 24th 2017 and I’m anxiously waiting for which poor organization is going to run headlong into the societal wood-chipper known as social media this week.

After all, we’ve had almost an uninterrupted six weeks of some poor CEO or beleaguered CMO doing the Texas-two-step when their organization has publicly dropped the ball and done something that’s raised the collective ire.

A US airline that has shown us that flying them is anything but friendly. And their CEO, who despite winning Communicator Of The Year in March from PRWeek, repeatedly seems unable to get the basics of crisis management right. Though you have to give them kudos for getting re-accommodating trending on Twitter.

A carbonated soft drinks manufacturer who chose to co-opt some of the most polarizing and controversial debates occurring today. Couple that with a high budget TV execution starring a celebrity better known for Revlon not Revolution and noses got rightly out of joint.

A juicing company that has become entirely irrelevant overnight when it was discovered that there actually was no need to juice anything when merely squeezing their juice packages was sufficient. This faux-pas made even more ironic considering they’d managed to raise more than $120 million in VC capital with their business plan.

While each of these high profile stories provided social media oxygen to the “outrage orchestra”, and had numerous marketing folks write lengthy op-ed pieces, this really runs way deeper than a seeming disconnect between advertising content and real life.

Organizations seem to have forgotten the cardinal business rule that you do first, then you say.

And that you need to be doing this at each and every level of your organization.

It really is that binary.

Don’t use phrases like customer-centric when your call center folks are evaluated on the speed with which they get customers off the phone. Or when you’d rather push human beings to a chatbot that is unable to answer even the most basic of customer questions.

Don’t talk about your environmental and societal commitment if you remain determined to treat water as an element that has a market value rather than a resource that is a basic human right. Or you extol the virtues of inclusiveness and diversity yet your executive team has no representation from minorities, women or LGBT within it.

Please don’t talk about “open innovation” or “ideas come from anywhere” if your decisions are still determined by the person with the biggest title or most tenure in the room. Or, if the senior people doing more talking, than active listening, in your meetings.

Please don’t generate whitepapers or thought pieces on the workplace or workforce of the future if your own hiring practices include online screening for keywords on a CV or if you use blunt employee surveys as the only yardstick by which you measure your own culture.

Don’t enshrine values like collaboration on your website and employee handbook when you really mean consensus. Or reward collaboration when your organization actually needs the disruptive power of cooperation more.

Avoid issuing Press Releases talking about your open and innovative Culture when your executives are ill-prepared to follow Tom Peter’s famous maxim of MBWA (Management By Walking Around) and the notion of “open door” is anathematic to your leaders.

I am constantly surprised that we live in a world when anything can be verified in seconds via Google and any soundbyte can reverberate on the other side of the planet in seconds via social media, and yet we still expect customers to act as dumb and blind recipients of our messages? Are we really surprised to see the declining trust in institutions so eloquently captured in Edelman’s Trust Barometer?

In truth actions have never been more important.

Talk, sadly, never cheaper.

Perhaps if our businesses and our leaders were more concerned about the veracity of their actions, than the velocity of their messages, we might just see customer cynicism, employee skepticism and social media outrage disappear.

What say you?

I must acknowledge my friend and all-around good egg Jay Chaney for the “Do then Say” quote. I’ve seldom heard a more profound expression for business and for life. Nice one mate.

Tags: , , ,