Ron Rhody's long career in public relations includes serving as executive vice president and director-corporate communications and external affairs at BankAmerica and corporate vice president and director of public relations and advertising for Kaiser Aluminum & Chemical Corp.
He became CEO of his own Consultancy and is the author of “The CEO’s Playbook” and “Wordsmithing: The Art and Craft of Writing for Public Relations.” He has worked with and advised CEOs and senior executives in the business, academic and not-for-profit sectors on a variety of communication and public relations issues. He has received numerous awards and honors from professional groups and organizations.
Interviewer: This is absolutely related to what we just talked about that maybe I just want to see that you have to say about it. So when your corporation or organization is faced with a false claim or an accusation isn’t accurate, what can that PR person, spokesperson, whatever they may be called, do to be sure that they speak up to the media. How do you do that?
Rhody: Well all that depends on how that particular public relations person is seen by the management with whom he's working whether or not he seems strong or weak whether or not he seems like someone who has good judgment or doesn’t. Whether or not he is somebody that gets done what he says he will get done, or can’t, and a lot of that, most of that is a result of the connect between the chief communications officer, the chief public relations officer and the CEO. Which is one of the reasons I feel not all of my people feel that way. I know not all my peers feel that way. One of the reasons that I feel it is so very important that the chief communications officer report to the CEO direct line in but the my feeling is that you never let an incorrect record stand. Then if you’ve been wronged, you take it on. I sort of like quoted Justice Holmes first defense of an innocent man unjustly accused is righteous in indignation. I think if you’ve been unjustly accused you ought to be righteous indignant and take it on. That’s not a view that is universally held and for a good reason. You run a great deal of risk when you take these sorts of things on and you have to be willing to go all the way to the mat on them. And many companies just don’t’ want the hassle for that. The reason I think it’s important. Well there are a couple of reasons I think it’s probably important to go that route. One is that in my opinion the most important asset a corporation has is its reputation. And a corporation needs to do everything it possibly can to protect its reputation. And if you allow your reputation to be sullied knowingly allow that to happen back off that. I think that we can as the corporation considerably with all of your constituents but most importantly with your employees. I haven’t also been one of those people who feel next to a corporation’s reputation that is the next important asset and its most important audience is its employees. Not the shareholders, not its customers but its employees. Because if its employees don’t’ make it happen and make it happen well nothing else happens. So for those reasons I think you stand up and you defend yourself.