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Walesa and the question of reputation

Suffice two days, one police intervention and a handful of media promises, for the issue regarding Lech Walesa to echo widely in the most important national and international media, to become a subject matter of must in all the possible spaces.

Coffees, corporate corridors, taxis and business tête-à-tête dazzle with strong terms – traitor, liar, hero, guilty, defiled. Not surprisingly, in similar cases, the multiplicity of opinions which can be heard, is equal to the number of all parties involved or even exceeds it. Nonetheless, it is worth giving this event a more systemic look and drawing a number of general conclusions from the Public Relations perspective.

In building analogy to the Leader of Solidarność, life has once again proved that the environment is neither black nor white, likewise the environment in which the organisations function. In the dynamic economy there are no only good or only bad decisions; the pressure is definitely strong, and premises are continuously reshuffled. In such situation, openness to the dialogue is of key importance in relation to decision already made, this means the structuring of argumentation in the manner which addresses concerns and convictions of the interested parties. There is nothing, especially in relation to the crisis referred to euphemistically as the challenge, that is as adverse as replies off the topic, change of opinion and narration.

Opinions regarding the seventies in the life of the former President have for years given rise to disputes. Like in communication, it is a disreputable mistake to assume that the problem can be covered up, the more so if it is already recognised. It is not easy to be a communication manager, who is only opening the champagne – over a long time span it is impossible. Strategic issues must be addressed, otherwise they will hit back with doubled strength. Difficult stories are delivered much easier when we are in control of them and plan an appropriate moment. The „burying” of an issue is a great light-heartedness.

Can a common denominator be put for the legend and the man in his human dimension? To paraphrase the question, can relations be simplified between the overall functioning of a company and a single event? With great difficulty, since the building of reputation is a multidimensional and long lasting process. But looking from perspective, everything that goes on over a long period of time, is a trend which can be neutralised with greater difficulty than a one-off, even the most difficult development. And again, the reaction is important, and not the weight itself of the development. It is also worth noting that the notion of a bad or good reputation is erroneous, even though it comes up often in erroneous statements. Reputation is the resultant of the promises made and how they are fulfilled. Hence, it may be strong and appropriate, resulting in foreseeability and consequently confidence. This means strategically that we can effectively realise objectives with even adverse attributes, but it is important that they are considered is the communication assumptions with appropriate advance.

From the PR perspective, there are no bad moments to start building an image or situations which are doomed to failure – there are only shallow and wishful strategies and those with sensitivity for the needs of those parties, which determine our success.

Michał Szapiro