If It Walks And Quacks Like a Duck…

duck…then everyone else will think it’s a duck.

Sometimes it doesn’t matter what you say. You can throw out your corporate messaging all you like, but regardless of what you say, people just don’t believe you.

You can tell people that your product is great, but if people keep having problems your words won’t matter. You can tell people you have great customer service, but if you keep customers on hold for an hour they just won’t believe you.

If the reality doesn’t match your words, your words will eventually cease to matter.

When messaging doesn’t matter

Consider, for example, the Conference Board of Canada. Over the past few weeks Michael Geist has taken aim at a report the organization issued, alleging bias and plagiarism in the report due to pressure by the report’s sponsors. Despite a blow-by-blow account of the problems with the report, the board spent several days defending the report before finally recalling it, along with two other reports.

The story has continued to evolve since that point, but to a large extent, the case being made by the Conference Board no longer matters. Peoples’ perception of the situation is now such that the repeated messages from the Conference Board have little impact.

Communications is always evolving. It’s still common practice to simply repeat key messages in slightly different ways regardless of the question. That’s working less and less well with traditional media (as Paul Martin discovered even a few years ago), but it works even less well in online forums where people expect to talk to other people, not to robots.

Does this mean you can go rogue and just engage with no direction or consideration? No. You need to remember where you’re coming from – your brand’s identity, your objectives and the limits you’ve set through your engagement policies.

Remember though – if your organization walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it won’t matter if you say you’re a swan.

Dave Fleet
EVP Digital at Edelman. Husband and dad of two. Cycling nut; bookworm; videogamer; Britnadian. Opinions are mine, not my employer's.