Why emo­tional in­tel­li­gence in PR is a crit­i­cal qual­ity for busi­ness con­duct

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - Front Page -

AF­TER the trau­matic events of the past two weeks, we now have sev­eral cor­po­rates ask­ing; how did we get here? The eco­nomic mael­ström re­ally brought out the beasts in them for sure! In other words, a cri­sis of this na­ture finds most or­gan­i­sa­tions, and in­deed their lead­ers, emo­tion­ally un­in­tel­li­gent. Apart from the shock­ing price in­creases, we had some shops clos­ing down lamely claim­ing to have done so for stock tak­ing (mid-month!) or renovations. Never mind the dev­as­tat­ing emo­tional im­pact on faith­ful cus­tomers.

As shop­pers dealt with the shock and tried to cope with the sit­u­a­tion, it be­came clear that when the chips are down, busi­ness loses all com­pas­sion.

It brought back bit­ter mem­o­ries of 2008 when cor­po­rates turned vam­pires, prey­ing on con­sumers’ des­per­a­tion to get ba­sics that were fast dis­ap­pear­ing from the shelves. In an ar­ti­cle writ­ten at the time, I said that con­sumers had the gift of hav­ing long mem­o­ries, and they would use it.

Pre­dictably, when the sit­u­a­tion nor­malised, some big brands strug­gled to re­gain the foothold that they had on the mar­ket. Some even con­sid­ered re­brand­ing. Now it seems the lessons of that dark pe­riod are lost on to­day’s busi­nesses.

Cor­po­rates sac­ri­fice the rep­u­ta­tion and im­age that they have painstak­ingly built over the years. And con­sumers get thrown un­der a bus, as the well-worn cliché goes. The ex­pla­na­tion is sim­ple, the peo­ple run­ning them lack emo­tional in­tel­li­gence.

Now why should I be best qual­i­fied to make such a damn­ing state­ment? For one, I am in pub­lic re­la­tions, a pro­fes­sion that by its very ti­tle means that we work with the peo­ple in mind. We are in a peo­ple-ori­ented field and our con­cern is about what peo­ple think, feel and say about brands they in­ter­act with.

PR prac­ti­tion­ers put them­selves in peo­ple’s shoes and then prof­fer peo­ple-driven solutions for clients who seek their ser­vice. They thrive on be­ing the con­science of the or­gan­i­sa­tion. Even when the bot­tom line is un­der threat.

Or­gan­i­sa­tions, par­tic­u­larly in a cri­sis, have found that prin­ci­ples of hon­esty, in­tegrity, open­ness, trust, re­spect, and em­pa­thy make for healthy re­la­tion­ships re­sult in sound, long-term re­la­tion­ships.

We tap into these to nur­ture sound re­la­tion­ships be­tween an or­gan­i­sa­tion and its var­i­ous publics. Pub­lic re­la­tions, sim­ply put, is about hu­man re­la­tions and re­la­tion­ships. Peo­ple are emo­tional be­ings, a qual­ity that eludes most an­i­mals. In PR we deal with these emo­tions.

Daniel Gole­man, the man who fash­ioned and pop­u­larised the term “Emo­tional In­tel­li­gence,” says that it is all about re­la­tion­ships.

“It’s also about the abil­ity to un­der­stand how some­one else thinks about things and to put things in a way that makes sense of how they see the world,” Gole­man says. Emo­tional In­tel­li­gence sets the moral com­pass of a per­son, a leader and in­deed an or­gan­i­sa­tion.

In pub­lic re­la­tions, we are on about or­gan­i­sa­tions and peo­ple be­ing pro-ac­tive in nur­tur­ing and main­tain­ing pos­i­tive re­la­tion­ships with oth­ers. It is the solid ba­sis of good busi­ness prac­tice. PR is also about man­ag­ing per­cep­tions with the knowl­edge that these are born out of emo­tions.

It is such emo­tions that were at play when busi­nesses threw cau­tion to the wind be­hav­ing with­out com­pas­sion. They were brazen, in-your-face and bordered on com­mit­ting high trea­son.

One so­cial me­dia pun­dit even said that if the govern­ment landed on these busi­nesses hard for un­eth­i­cal prac­tice, they would have brought it upon them­selves. Busi­nesses are wary of be­ing la­belled eco­nomic sabo­teurs.

Emo­tional In­tel­li­gence is about read­ing the mood of your publics, govern­ment in­cluded. Busi­ness eth­i­cal prac­tice is about open­ness, sin­cer­ity, and hon­esty. Cus­tomers want trust­wor­thi­ness, and a ser­vice provider that has gen­uine re­gard for them and that truly lis­tens and won over more.

The other as­pect is about be­ing proac­tive in do­ing the right thing. Re­tail gi­ants Pick N Pay and OK su­per­mar­kets, did so and have earned the re­spect of their cus­tomers.

The re­tail­ers that shut their doors in the faces of their cus­tomers will sing the blues. No amount of fire­fight­ing will change the neg­a­tive per­cep­tions about how they left peo­ple high and dry for self­ish rea­sons.

The emo­tion­ally in­tel­li­gent busi­nesses act with hon­esty, in­tegrity, open­ness, trust, re­spect, and em­pa­thy. Those that are not act with con­tempt.

There are eight prin­ci­ples of ef­fec­tive pub­lic re­la­tions that are di­rectly re­lated to com­pe­ten­cies in emo­tional in­tel­li­gence iden­ti­fied by Robert L Heath and W Timothy Coombs. They are to: be com­mu­nity ori­ented seek to put the best avail­able in­for­ma­tion into play care­fully an­a­lyse the in­for­ma­tion that is in play, and in­vite anal­y­sis of the in­for­ma­tion

ex­press eval­u­a­tions, lis­ten to oth­ers’ eval­u­a­tions, and in­vite eval­u­a­tions—gen­uine di­a­logue seek out­comes that fea­ture “win-win” al­ter­na­tives be open, can­did, and hon­est lis­ten, give re­gard, and re­spond in ways that prove com­mit­ment not merely to de­fend a po­si­tion but also to fos­ter di­a­logue that can lead all in­ter­ested par­ties to achieve a mu­tu­ally sat­is­fy­ing, and ben­e­fi­cial out­come.

seek to es­tab­lish mu­tu­ally ben­e­fi­cial re­la­tion­ships Un­der­stand­ably, the busi­nesses might not have had the time nor the pa­tience to con­sider any of these. If only they con­sulted PR pro­fes­sion­als whose job is to coun­sel man­age­ment on cri­sis com­mu­ni­ca­tions and man­age­ment.

Lenox Mh­langa is Lead Con­sul­tant with Magna Carta Rep­u­ta­tion Man­age­ment and a thought leader in pub­lic re­la­tions. Con­tact him at lenox@mag­nacarta.co.zw

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