Teaching Employees to Communicate Well

Why PR is everyone’s responsibility -- whether CEO, Receptionist or Janitor


Have you ever faced a rude sales rep in a retail store or a service employee with an attitude? Or how about calling an office only to encounter a grouchy receptionist?

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Many companies spend most of their time and money providing spokesperson training for higher-level management, assuming these are the individuals who will be speaking publicly on behalf of the organization.


While it is true that the executives are likely the ones highlighted in advertisements, speaking to the media or meeting with investors, public relations is the job of every employee – from the president to the forward-facing receptionist interacting with customers each day.


Larry Ross was recently reminded of this during a visit to a professional office for a weekly meeting. On his way out, he encountered a woman sitting at the desk whom he had not yet met over the many times he had been to the facility. Ever the consummate professional, Larry introduced himself.


He quickly learned this young lady typically worked in another location but came to serve at this particular store one day a week when the other was closed.


Having just begun to successfully use the company’s products with remarkable results beyond expectations, Larry proceeded to ask the woman if she had utilized the program, assuming she had because each of her company colleagues he had met was an ardent fan, and evangelistic about their experiences.


But he quickly learned that was not the case with this receptionist. To be fair, she was honest in the fact she did not use the products, which would have been fine if she left it there. The problem was, she then continued to list the myriad reasons why she didn’t like them, speaking about them with utter disdain.


At that moment, this receptionist and her negative opinion became the company brand for Larry. She was a direct reflection of its leadership.


As PR professionals, we have spent our careers reframing the picture on behalf of clients. While one wouldn’t expect any employee to lie or compromise his or her integrity for the sake of a company, full disclosure is not required.


We have written before about the difference of working for a cause vs. working for a purpose. Sadly, many people work for a purpose, and as such, it cannot be assumed that every employee has a passion for his or her employer’s service or product. That is why it is vital to teach all employees the importance of positively representing the company, even if it is through omission.


In the case of Larry’s encounter with the negative receptionist, telling him she had not used the product was fine. It was her explanation that was the issue and where she crossed the line. If trained properly, she could have easily shifted the focus away from her own negative experience and back to Larry with a simple response such as: “Not yet; how long have you been using the product?” or “...how is it working for you?”


Never underestimate how one negative reaction can affect a customer’s perception or loyalty. NewVoiceMedia.com found that 51 percent of customers will never do business with that company again after one negative experience.


In fact, it is axiomatic that consumers are pre-disposed to more readily share negative product experiences than positive. According to the American Express 2017 Customer Service Barometer, Americans tell an average of 15 people about a poor service experience, versus the 11 people they’ll tell about a good experience.


Are you training your employees on how to positively represent your company even if they don’t personally utilize or agree with everything you offer?


All organizations need a strategic public relations plan to help communicate, through which leadership can empower employees to positively represent and reinforce their brand to external audiences, even if they aren’t “all-in.”