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August 13, 2013
Remembering an Organization's 'Story' When Its Leadership Changes
 
Especially in these hyper-active times, a period of transition in an organization's leadership can be hazardous. PR people need to keep this ever in mind. The focus is on finding and adjusting to new leadership. What can be lost track of is the strengths — calm, imagination, resourcefulness — the old leader brought to the organization. The Harvard Business Review discusses "the importance of preserving the company's story" before anything else.

The Business Review cites the example of the Ford Motor Co. in the 1990s and 200s, when "Ford strayed from its core narrative," which harked back to Henry Ford himself. "It wasn't until 2006 that Bill Ford (Henry's great grandson) and the board of directors found a leader that understood the Ford narrative and knew how to act Ford-like again," the account goes. "Alan Mullaly, an aviation engineer from Boeing was a guy with the right stuff. He and his team set about building higher quality products (a baseline necessity), and, notably, taking public responsibility for missteps.

"But the breakthrough moment came when Mulally and his team opted not to take any of the auto-bailout money that the U.S. government was offering...Ford under Mulally started to feel American again."

With all the stresses that whirl around a change in leadership, the PR people involved with an organization — inside or outside — need to be continually mindful of its story, what brought it success, the qualities that marked its leadership, before anything else. Advice given in the context of past success is important stuff.  

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Doug Bedell has a background in journalism and PR and is the owner of Resource Relations LLC in Central PA, focusing on organizational and crisis communication. He’s the community manager of SimplyFair.net, a social network on fairness. On the Web, Doug’s at www.ResourceRelations.com. On Twitter, he’s @DougBeetle.
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