Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 2/11/2019 (530 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Recently, an information package crossed my desk that was sent to the editors of major daily newspapers across Canada outlining a potential health risk related to emissions from photocopiers. As I read through the information, everything initially seemed above board, albeit over the top with pseudo-scientific claims and some scare tactics. Finally, when I reached the last page, there it was — a sales pitch to purchase copiers from the sender.
Yes, Virginia, there still are snake oil salesmen out there. The package of material made a compelling case for what appears to be a legitimate concern.
However, woven into the 34 pages of big and bold headlines and pictures was a not-so-subtle build up towards the sales pitch. That is, under the guise of leveraging media support to deal with an apparent health risk was just another sales pitch. And not a very good one at that.
I have used my winning game plan approach for other topics in past columns. And this concept holds true in this situation as well.
No winning team creates a game plan that includes taking penalties. And no organization should plan to operate illegally or unethically regardless of the sector you are in. This is because even industries have referees to ensure you play and abide by the rules.
For marketers like me who are troubled by this type of "sales" tactic, there are several organizations in Canada governing practices, advertising messaging and other trade-related processes. Sometimes unethical actions are not illegal, as in this case.
However, ethical and regulatory oversight is still necessary because of dubious management or advertising and sales tactics in the past that are still happening today. For example, Industry Canada (IC) is the primary oversight government department for business actions. Typically, the areas IC deals with are broader and include blatant deceptive business practices, corporate mergers and acquisitions not in the best interest of the country, and other more visible acts that are misleading or deceptive. Another example is Ad Standards, which administers the Canadian Code of Advertising Standards to ensure the integrity and viability of Canadian advertising for all consumers.
Companies can leave it to regulators to carry this burden, or the individuals in those companies can take responsibility for their actions first and foremost.
The Canadian Professional Sales Association’s Sales Institute Code of Ethics establishes the specific ethical behaviour for anyone who is a member of the association and who also holds one of their three designations. This is a self-regulating body working diligently to maintain confidence and trust for its professional sales representative members.
Personally, as a certified management consultant, I am obliged by law to comply with strict standards of competency, objectivity and ethical practice. Each year, I must attest to abiding by our Code of Professional Conduct and standards of practice.
I offer the following considerations to create an ethical winning game plan to ensure consistency of messaging and actions throughout your organization.
First, conduct an overall assessment of your interactions with customers, employees and other stakeholders to objectively assess the strength and honesty of these interactions and identify areas requiring some adjustment or improvement. The more objective you can be of these interactions, the likelier you will create a process or message that will be more positive and ethical in the future.
Second, you should never have to tell someone — in your marketing messages or your sales pitch — you are ethical. Your actions and behaviour should demonstrate it.
The moment you try and say you are "something," you diminish your credibility. People are best able to gauge your relevancy and the level of trust they should have with you based on your actions.
Finally, everyone in your organization must know the expectations and limits of the public statements that you are making. Ethical behaviour begins with the employees of an organization. And leadership must reinforce the correct behaviour.
One of the worst situations for an organization is to have an ethics policy leaders flagrantly ignore. The employees surely think, "if they don’t have to act accordingly, why should I?" A wise colleague once said to me, "that which you permit, you promote." It is imperative leading by example is the rule of the day.
Tim’s bits: If you make a claim in your sales approach, or create marketing messaging that will result in you getting on the front page of the newspaper, is it going to be a story your mother will be proud of, or will she be offended? No reasonable person wants to offend their mother. So take a step back, and carefully consider what you are going to do or say.
This level of awareness will enable you to establish a winning game plan to create informative letters to newspaper editors, and not something that is "slimy and salesy" under the guise of another topic entirely.
Tim Kist, CMC, a certified management consultant by law, works with organizations to improve their overall performance by being truly customer-focused.
Tim is a certified management consultant with more than two decades of experience in various marketing and sales leadership positions.