Monday, August 15, 2011
Verizon, the telecommunications company, has called in authorities to investigate what it claims are "acts of sabotage" during an ongoing strike by 45,000 of its employees. If so, it is not the first time nor the first company to which that has happened. Yet, the circumstances can be serious, especially if phone service is cut as Verizon alleges to a hospital and police station. Strikes are rarely good for a corporation's public image, but on the other hand, they aren't good for a union either when members misbehave. A strike is a game of perceptions as much as work stoppage. Each side is hoping to get the public on its side and to gain advantage over the other. It is a difficult time for public relations. One needs to justify the company's position against its own workers, but it needs to be done in a way that avoids inflaming the strikers more than they already are. Company statements usually come directly from negotiators who know what is happening in the bargaining room, and the PR person is on standby to assist when needed. Meanwhile, one watches helplessly as a company's reputation erodes under a barrage of negative messages. It is never a good position to be in.