Thursday, January 11, 2007

The Long Perspective 

Sometimes it is worth taking a long view of a problem. Here's one. It's an incident that occurred long ago, but which we won't see until long into the future. It provides a glimpse into the immensity of the universe and just how small earth is in the scheme of things. PR challenges look like nothing by comparison, and as one person said, it is hard to grasp that it could be true.

Taking a longer view can relieve the pressure of short-term demands. Unfortunately, most clients don't look at the world that way. They want everything done now, but neither behavior nor belief systems change quickly, as we noted in earlier postings. It takes years. CEOs don't get the time they need, however. The median time a CEO is in office in the S&P 500 is just five years. Five years is barely enough time to effect one major behavioral change in a company.

With high turnover in company leadership and increased competitive pressure, it is striking that so many companies continue to thrive. What appears to be happening is that culture survives CEOs and carries on in a quiet but powerful way. Employees outlast the boss and do what they have always done. Companies that have changed successfully usually have a CEO who has stayed in office for 10 years or longer -- enough time to change behavior all the way to the point of contact with customers. The tension between short-term demands for performance and long-term change is a challenge that few master. PR practitioners need to be aware of what really happens within corporate culture versus what a CEO thinks is going on.


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