Wednesday, February 04, 2004

I Don't Like Anybody Very Much 

The whole world is festering
With unhappy souls.
The French hate the Germans
The Germans hate the Poles.
Italians hate Yugoslavs
South Africans hate the Dutch
And I don't like anybody very much.

Lyric by Sheldon Harnick

This long-ago comic song about world rivalries has been echoing in my mind as I think about the state of communications departments. They are just that -- warring states. They don't get along. Corporate communications hates IR. IR hates them back. Marketing doesn't like either. All three hate the external agency. The only one who can get them to work together is the CEO, and the CEO is frequently distracted with something called business.

In my years in PR, I have rarely had an occasion in which I could talk comfortably with an IR person. And, I started in IR. The IR person felt as long as I stayed away from analysts and the IR person avoided media, everything would be fine. Our agency has tried to explain again and again that reporters talk to analysts and vice versa, so a company should not isolate the two groups. We haven't sold that idea yet. Frequently, we have found the case where marketing doesn't trust corporate communications. Corporate communications won't share information with marketing and vice versa. We've again explained that both have a common interest in sending a consistent message to the same audience -- the consumer. We might as well talk to a post.

There is no reason for such professional jealousy in a well-run operation, but it is there, and it won't go away. One cannot extract human nature from humans. It is a test of a CEO's leadership to get the three pulling in the right direction. I haven't met many CEOs who have been able to pull that off.

So we end up singing the lyric, "I don't like anybody very much." It's a pity and it's sad. It wastes tremendous amounts of time. It slows understanding and execution. It infuriates CEOs who cannot understand why their communications departments are so uncoordinated.

Couldn't we all just get along? (Rodney King)


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