How Overpromising Causes Public Relations Disasters

Organizations shouldn’t overpromise as an alternative to the risk of losing a customer, employee, deal, flattering article, or favorable analyst rating. Overpromising may buy time, but it almost always comes to haunt the organization in the long term. Not delivering on expectations is dangerous for the future of the organization. Honesty is a better alternative to overpromising.

Another, maybe better, way to put it: It is better surprising people with good news later than giving them unrealistic expectations too soon.

An organization builds trust, not just by fixing things before they break, but by consistently being honest on what they can or cannot do. Even though this seems simple, many companies overpromise in many ways.

Let us talk about a wide range of exaggerations, unfairly raised expectations, and outright deceptions.

The job with the biggest amount of overpromising is a salesman. The salesman will promise everything to make a sale. He/she will make the sale and worry about how to keep the sale only after they landed the business. Companies rationalize this pitch six ways from Sunday. They tell everyone that everyone exaggerates to make a sale. That behavior is expected in sales. The truth is customers expect companies to keep their promises and hold them accountable for delivering what they guaranteed in their presentation.

Here are categories on over-promising

FINANCIAL FORECASTS – Wall Street is unforgiving when a company’s promise never materializes. Many CEOs talk about the upcoming quarter in a good way when cushioning a current dismal quarter. They may do a good job at convincing analysts of an upswing. When an upswing doesn’t materialize, analysts are furious. Wall Street hates surprises, and it hates unnecessary surprises even more.

EMPLOYEE RETENTION – To keep good employees, managers will often guarantee them promotions, raises, and bonuses. Sometimes, employees make these promises during a busy time. In other instances, they make these promises, knowing they are unlikely. In either situation, word spreads quickly among organizations when these promises are broken. If this practice is allowed, explicitly or implicitly, it causes employees to doubt everything management says.

RECRUITING GUARANTEES – This can be a great temptation for companies looking for “hot” candidates for top positions. Knowing these superstars can have their pick of jobs and they probably have other offers, organizations will offer many perks and promises. Their rationale is, once the employee is on board, he will not leave if the company doesn’t deliver on all these guarantees.

DEADLINES – Companies will tell federal and state legislators they’ll meet their requirements by a certain date; they tell their customers they’ll have the order delivered to them by a certain date; they insist to the financial community they’ll be profitable by a certain quarter. For all these groups, dates are important. They are counting on deadlines being met, and when they’re not, they feel deceived. The feeling of deception is even stronger when it seems organizations had no intention of meeting the goal. Too often, we underestimate the importance of due dates. Individuals being late by a day may not matter in the grand scheme of things. But, for companies, it sends a clear message they aren’t honest. If a company isn’t serious about its deadlines, then what else don’t they care about?

DEAL NEGOTIATIONS – Some organizations, known as great deal negotiators, may not be known as honest or fair negotiators. In mergers and acquisitions, in labor negotiations, and in joint ventures, some companies consider themselves great bargainers because they cut good deals. They will say anything to close the deal on favorable terms. They paint rosy pictures to a company, while they cut 25% of the company’s employees.

MEDIA INTERVIEWS – It’s astonishing to see otherwise intelligent leaders get carried away in a media interview. They say how great the company’s prospects are, and before you know it, they painted an unrealistic picture of their prospects. Stories like these, not only unfairly raise an audience’s impression, but they also mislead reporters. When reporters find out their published article is inaccurate, they feel burned and don’t trust that CEO and organization, and their following articles reflect that.





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