Paul Holmes 02 Apr 2011 // 4:54PM GMT
Deron Triff, CEO and co-founder of Changents.com, blogs at Huffington Post about the failure of major companies—many of which made significant contributions to the Japanese clean-up efforts in the wake of the recent tsunami—to discuss the tragedy. “Not one tweet or Facebook status update from any of my favorite companies signaled that they were getting behind (if not financially or strategically, then at least empathetically) our friends in Japan,” he reports, suggesting that companies missed an opportunity to show their human side. I happen to agree—I think companies should keep their stakeholders informed about their philanthropic and other good works—but I don’t think the issue is quite as simple as Triff’s column suggests. I remember during the Sichuan earthquake in China three years ago there were complaints on Chinese bulletin boards that big western companies were not doing enough to aid the victims. Boycotts were organized. But many of the companies had, in fact, made quite generous contributions, and faced with the threat of a boycott, many of them started to talk about those contributions—at which point, they were accused of exploiting the tragedy, and bulletin board users threatened a fresh round of boycotts. In other words, companies need to tread a fine line in situations like this. There’s a famous definition of public relations as “doing good and getting credit for it.” But in this case, doing good and seeking credit for it can be bad public relations.