December 17, 2017

Helping PR pros make smarter decisions

Experience bias, and how it can lead to comms myopia

Experience bias, and how it can lead to comms myopia

This is a brief follow up to yesterday’s post on the Papa John’s receipt issue. As Gini Dietrich correctly points out in her post that mentions both the Papa John’s issue and an even more jaw-dropping social media flub by Boners BBQ, these problems are not PR problems. They are training and personnel problems that have led to PR challenges.

I really have nothing to add on the Boners BBQ issue–that just seems like horrifically bad decision-making all the way around.

But the Papa John’s issue has led me to think a bit more about the employee/training aspect. Not long ago, one of the political blogs I read embedded a video of a Chris Rock sketch on Jobs vs. Careers. (Obviously, Chris Rock=NSFW, so have your headphones at the ready or view at home.) It occurred to me that we’re all sitting in our posh corner offices (heh) suggesting to franchise owners that all they need to do is just train their employees better. Make those employees realize that negative social media attention can harm their business.

This is an incredibly near-sighted way to look at the challenges faced by companies who have–and will always have–a certain percentage of employees who are simply there to earn a check. For some amount of their workforce, their employees will not be thinking in terms of brand reputation and long-term damage to the brand. They don’t care about response times. They are there to earn a check. Period. We are assuming that because *we* think in these terms, that other employees will think in these terms. It simply isn’t the case. It’s our own experience that is leading to advice bias.

Worse yet, it’s entirely possible that the business owners know that some of their employees may have the potential to torpedo the brand and they specifically don’t want to put ideas into their heads on how to do so. We can sit here and say “hire better,” but again: we don’t know the market conditions that we are dispensing this sage advice to the way the business owners do.

I’d like to think that every employee out there is happy to have a job (or career) and that they all understand that when the business does well, it’s good for the employees. But I recognize that just because I am happy with my career, does not mean a teen who is earning gas money is happy with his or her minimum-wage/bad hours/irate customers job.

I’m not excusing bad behavior. I just think it’s important to keep in mind when we are dispensing advice that perhaps we don’t always know the true picture of the challenges faced by businesses.

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About The Author

Jennifer Zingsheim Phillips is the founder of 4L Strategies, and has worked in communications and public affairs for just over 20 years. Her background includes work in politics, government, lobbying, public affairs PR work, content creation, and digital and social communications and media analysis.

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