Licking the Toad – A Commentary on Pro-activity

1/31/2010

One of my previous lives involved helping to manage crises (yes, there were many) from a public and/or community relations stance. I don’t remember where I first heard the following phrase, or whether I originated it, but I started to refer to my strategy and philosophy on PR problems as ‘Licking the Toad’.

What did I mean by that? Well, my philosophy was a simple one to explain. Bad news does not get any better in time. I advocate organizations disclose as much information as possible, responsibly and to be available to comment, even if it means all you can say is ‘No Comment’. You have to build trust within your organization, and have access to 100% disclosure, internally, for this approach to be successful. But when the media is setting up the live trucks in your parking lot, you have a great chance to stay ahead of the story and manage it when you ‘Lick the Toad’.

This philosophy has applications beyond the world of public and community relations. I have applied it in customer service as well. When dealing with a customer problem, “Licking the Toad” means taking a proactive stance to return a customer to a positive customer service experience.

Here is a recent example. I had a misunderstanding with a customer of my consultancy, www.cameronknowles.com, over a contractual point. After an e-mail exchange which defined the disagreement, whether I was right or wrong was immaterial. I asked myself ‘what is right for the relationship’. Sometimes, even if you’re right, you’re wrong, because by proving your point, you have the potential to lose the relationship. I acted rapidly, made a concession, and planned for improved communication in the future. Consider one more toad licked.

The great thing about licking the toad is that once you’ve got that taste in your mouth, it only gets better!