Friday, June 30, 2006

Action First, Words Second

High-profile accounting and corporate scandals propelled us into the current era of Sarbanes Oxley. Some argue the bark surrounding SOX is far stronger than its bite. Yet others believe SOX to be the most significant legislation since FDR's New Deal—a term he adopted from Mark Twain's A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court.

" I was, in a country where a right to say how the country should be governed was restricted to six persons in each thousand of its population...I was become a stockholder in a corporation where nine hundred and ninety-four of the members furnished all the money and did all the work, and the other six elected themselves a permanent board of direction and took all the dividends. It seemed to me that what the nine hundred and ninety-four dupes needed was a new deal." —From A Connecticut Yankee...published in the late 19th Century

Regardless of how SOX plays out for businesses, one thing is certain. Consumers, media, regulators, elected officials all will continue to demand greater accountability, transparency and scrutiny as the twinge of scandal reverberates through Corporate America. The role of communications in forming perceptions and managing reputation undoubtedly will continue to prove important to successful leadership.

But what many leaders neglect to realize, however, is that effective, influential communication is preceded by effective actions taken by the corporation. Corporate actions and even inactions ultimately cause the most damage to reputation and preclude communications from being effective.

To maintain positive perception with key audiences, corporate leaders must constantly communicate about actions focused on achieving value, effectiveness, quality, credibility and competence. Perception—good or bad, accurate or inaccurate—becomes reality and impacts reputation.

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