Corporate Communications – The Boxing Metaphor

Following on from an earlier post about publicity and the rules of engagement. Taking it as read that publicity – in some form or other (publicity (n) – information that concerns a person, group, event, or product and that is disseminated through various media to attract public notice) – is the end goal of everything that we do as communicators, then – ergo – there must be rules that the professional communicator has at least an eye to when going about the task.

For my part, these include (but are not limited to) telling the truth (or at least a part of it), not misrepresenting, not insulting, not belittling and not demeaning – and, here’s a biggie, not saying anything that you cannot, if called upon to do so, back up.

Obviously, there’s a fine line here. Many moons ago, Tesco announced a new home delivery service – for those of its customers who lived in some splendour and didn’t wish to see a Tesco-branded van up their cul-de-sac (to coin a phrase). The new service involved delivery by dark green Range Rover, and the pictures of said Range Rover (along with the story) got square hectares of coverage.

I myself announced that a particular pub restaurant chain was to launch ‘Pincher’s Portions’ of chips – to solve the age old issue of wives, girlfriends and partners refusing to order their own chips and then pinching yours. (Ooooooh – it still irritates me.) Again, the story tapped into the zeitgeist and generated a decent footie pitch of coverage.

Of course, neither story was strictly based in complete fact. Tesco had one, perhaps two, Range Rovers, and the posh delivery service vanished as fast as the story did. My lovely pub restaurant chain put the Pincher’s Portion on the menu in a couple of its outlets, for a brief while. It didn’t matter at all, though – the ideas behind the stories were great and, if absolutely pushed (by some humourless killjoy) to prove they were true – well, we could.

Now the boxing metaphor. As you may know, dear blog snorkeller, on Saturday, one David Hayes is to step into the ring of pugilism and face Nikolai Valuev of Russia. Clearly, Mr Hayes’ fortune rests on the publicity he can generate around the fight, encouraging people to pay their subscriptions to watch it, and making himself more marketable. He has been most vociferous around how well he is going to do, and how is is going to knock his opponent out. There has been reams of coverage – the story has been wholly unavoidable, unless you’ve been living in an hermetically-sealed bunker somewhere for the past couple of weeks.

Unfortunately for Mr Hayes, he is going to be called upon to prove all the claims he has made. Also unfortunately, his opponent is seven foot two inches tall, and weighs 23 stone. He is – looking at it in a logical and balanced fashion – going to get spanked.

A company caught generating publicity on the back of a lie will lose the trust of its stakeholders and the impact on its corporate reputation may be mortal. If you squint a bit and look at Mr Hayes as a company, what’s going to happen to him on Saturday is exactly the same.

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