OK…Maybe I Was a Little Harsh

September 22, 2009 at 9:22 pm

The first time I heard Wendell Potter’s story about resigning from Cigna to fight against what he saw as unethical, dishonest communications to block healthcare reform, I wrote to PRSA and said we gotta help this guy. The second time, his campaign sounded more political…a quick Google search seemed to confirm that. That’s when I posted my reply to the question about whether his resignation was good PR.

PRSA’s (www.prsa.org) publication Tactics has an interview with Mr Potter ( http://bit.ly/47YcTK)  in which the reporter asked many of the questions I posed in my post, which you can see below.

I’m thinking I was a little harsh on Mr. Potter.

One challenge in-house PR folks face is believing our own publicity. I suppose we have to, at least to some extent, or we couldn’t do our jobs. It helps when what we’re saying is true.

I believe in everything I wrote about the challenges we face in standing up for ethical and honest communications and being the consciousness of a company. In these economic times, that’s harder than ever. Maybe it did take Mr. Potter awhile to come around, and we can debate all day about how he’s attacking the problem. But he is doing it.

Mr. Potter’s tale also will make me think twice in the coming weeks as I talk with people about how to respond to a reporter’s question or how to position the company on an issue. Is it truth, like real truth? Or is it truth as filtered and believed by the company. Hopefully, they’re the same. If not, I may need a reality check. It’s important to be able to get that reality check from your professional network,  a reporter’s questions or even a customer’s response. Without being able to step back, you may not be able to offer good counsel about communcating effectively and ethically. And you may wind up like Mr. Potter…or many other PR people who face a choice of acting unethically or walking away. I know I had to do it, and ironically, it was in healthcare.

So, I’m changing my position and offering my hand to Mr Potter and my good wishes. And I’m reminding myself not to judge so quickly next time.

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