COMMUNICATIONS TIP OF THE WEEK: What Can Be Learned from the WikiLeaks Phenomenon?

The term “WikiLeaks” was probably on the lips of only a few people just a few months ago.  These days it seems like it’s everywhere.  The people involved with running the company are under attack from multiple sources.  After releasing diplomatic cables it seems like every country is now very afraid of the idea that WikiLeaks might find something they said, in expected confidence, and make it so everyone can read it.

So, what can be learned from the WikiLeaks experience?  For the company itself, it could very well be a lesson in just how far you are willing to go to stick by a business plan or a business message.  With calls for trials, arrests and charges of treason and espionage, you might have to wonder if the people behind WikiLeaks are as confident today about the rightness of their actions as they were six months ago.

As for the leaks themselves, the lesson is probably that you should be very careful with whatever messages you send out there.  We live in a world where everything that is said can be instantly transmitted around the world.  Therefore, and this may seem like a lot of pressure, no one should send anything out that they wouldn’t want the rest of the world to know.  That seems like a crazy statement to make, but look at the possible consequences.

Everyone is now part of the media.  Thanks to Facebook, Twitter and other social media outlets, people are relying on friends and family for their news.  The days when you just had to worry about the local newspaper or television station picking up something negative about your company is gone and probably never to be seen again.  Now you have to worry about everyone, including your own friends, co-workers and family.

Such thoughts can inspire paranoia.  But there is no need to panic or lock yourself in a sealed room.  Honest y has always been the best policy.   The best way to make sure your company has the right message and it getting that message to the right people, is to make that company message honest and true.  Don’t promise things you cannot deliver.  And if you do not deliver, be prepared to change your strategy to one that works better.  Change doesn’t mean you failed, it just means you found one way that didn’t quite work right.

Although it may seem unlikely that anything you say about your business is likely to spread around the world and incite politicians from around the globe to comment, having comments locally might have an even worse effect on your business.  It’s the local people who use your business, or those within your respective industries, that are more likely to recommend or talk about your business to others.  So, having a bad outing even locally or among a small but select group of people can hurt. 

As always, if you have trouble monitoring the communications reach you are having, there are people out there who can help.  It is never wrong to ask for some help.  Not asking is what can lead you into deeper trouble.

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