Seeing around the bend is key in today's marcomms landscape

Communicators can prevent a "butterfly effect" of small mistakes leading up to a negative outcome by practicing better coordination and information sharing.

Image via Christian Schnettelker / Flickr; Used under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.
Image via Christian Schnettelker / Flickr; Used under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

Let’s face it: None of us can see into the future, and we’re probably not reading tea leaves or using a crystal ball to make decisions on behalf of our companies or clients. That said, it doesn’t mean we’re not expected to do something extremely close to knowing what will happen next, every single day.

On Tuesday, ESPN published a story about NBA superstar Steph Curry’s decision to shift his shoe allegiance to Under Armour after a series of events, the most prominent of which was a reportedly awkward pitch meeting in August 2013, which included a remnant other-client-name on a slide (the stuff nightmares are made of) and a mispronunciation of Curry’s first name. If you are an Under Armour fan, or just appreciate marketing tales that will stand the test of time, this was a great read. If you’re a marketer at Nike, you’re probably not thrilled.

Why is this important? Because, hopefully, someone had the foresight to share the SNAFUs from that meeting with the appropriate parties. Communicators can prevent a "butterfly effect" of small mistakes leading up to a notable loss by practicing better coordination and information sharing.

This doesn’t mean that every single conversation or good or bad thing that happens in a client, vendor, or team relationship needs to be shared with the PR team. I certainly wouldn’t want to read all those emails. It does, however, mean that we should be educating our colleagues who don’t handle external communications with media on how their day-to-day activities can affect public or industry perception, regardless of nondisclosure agreements or other factors.

That time your company, with good intentions, sent out 100 identical robot-like tweet responses to irate customers, driving even more negative commentary from the marketplace? Might want to write that down and determine if a follow-up is necessary. The business trip where your team "got caught" ordering beers from a competitive brewer the night before a pitch, only to be told not to show up to the meeting the next morning? Might be good to know about that, because word will get out. (True story. Today, the bartender might have tweeted about it.)

In 1983, Depeche Mode shared the lyrics "It’s a competitive world. Everything counts in large amounts." They weren’t even thinking about the competition for attention — customers, clients, and others — that we’re all faced with today. This isn’t about turning yourself and your team paranoid, but it is about making sure we’re well-informed as communicators within our organization and its teams. Media, influencers, and others are most certainly keeping their ears to the ground, and there’s no reason we shouldn’t be ahead of the curve, so we know as much as we can about that train coming around the bend.

Tom Biro resides in Seattle and is the principal of Companywidememo, LLC. His column focuses on how digital media affects and shifts PR. He can be reached at tom@tombiro.com or on Twitter @tombiro.

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