Mind the Gap

In the London Tube the signs are everywhere — Mind the Gap, don’t fall between the train and the platform.

Lately I’ve thought that should be a sign inside every corporate C-suite and brand manager’s office.

Almost every issue engulfing a company or serious complaint about a brand is as a result of a big gap between their stated promise and their actual delivery.

If an airline says they offer great service and leave you on the tarmac for six hours without water, they create a gap. If a company says it values its employees but cuts their benefits more than most companies, they have a gap. If a politician runs on a platform of family values yet cheats on his or her spouse, big gap.

As the function most responsible for reputation management, those of us in communications have an obligation to identify gaps, to anticipate gaps and adamantly counsel management on the need and path to close any gaps. This is particularly essential today in this era of radical transparency fueled by social media. This also is reflected in the FedEx/Ketchum Social Business Study released this week.

It begs the question: have we raised a generation of counselors in-house or within agencies who are skilled and qualified to analyze and advise on the actions needed to close behavior, service and policy gaps?

At Ketchum many of the elements are in place but it’s an ongoing journey. We have highly experienced counselors in public policy issues, workplace issues and brand management. We have experts in research-based reputation management. We have a highly capable change management unit, Ketchum Pleon Change, to assist companies and brands in the multi-dimensional work needed to bring about real internal change.

Beyond these experts, I hope more counselors in our field believe it’s their job to close the gap and develop the skills and credibility with management required to effectively advise in this vital arena. I believe that, if we do this well, we will significantly increase our value to management and our value as a profession.