President Trump Provides a Learning Moment For the Alcohol Beverage Industry

Duplicity. Hypocrisy. Lying.

These are things of which every company, and certainly every beverage company, ought to try to avoid being accused.

The recent revelation that President Donald Trump told a reporter one thing about the COVID-19 threat to Americans and told the public another thing about the potential impact of COVID19 on Americans brings to light the importance of consistency in messaging that every beverage company ought to keep in mind.

Today, wineries, brewers, distillers, retailers, importers and wholesalers communicate far more frequently than they did just a decade ago. Whether in the form of social media communications, press releases, interviews, podcasts, emails or newsletters, beverage companies are consistently revealing their perspective and positions on any number of both mundane and important issues. Here’s the rule for business communications:

BE CONSISTENT!

First, consistency in messaging is necessary no matter with whom you are communicating. A winery, for example, does not want to say one thing about the quality of a vintage to the media, while saying something different when communicating with customers. It’s not only confusing, but it’s also probably unethical. And in this day and age, unethical dispositions are likely to be called out in fairly quick fashion. And let’s go out on a limb here and suggest that unethical actions are bad for business.

Second, consistency in messaging makes your life easier and making life easier is a very good thing. Consistency in messaging, particularly consistency in messaging to different constituencies, means never having to spend time with justifications and it makes messaging a relatively simpler process. This is another way of reminding that it’s very difficult to keep track of lies.

Finally, the potential for ruining the trust a company may have built up with customers, media and partners when you are inconsistent in your messaging is great. If there is a more important currency than trust when it comes to doing business and particularly when it comes to selling, I don’t know what that currency looks like.

All of this advice probably seems very elementary and appears to be something that ought to go without saying. Being consistent in your messaging (ie: not lying) is something we all hopefully learn at a very young age.

But the recent revelation that President Trump lied to someone (a reporter or the American people) reveals that some folks need a refresher course on this basic principle.

On a final note, the recently uncovered inconsistencies in what President Trump told a reporter and what he told Americans is a reminder to us all that when you speak to the media you are also speaking to the public. If you aren’t willing to tell the public what you tell a reporter then you probably don’t have any business telling anything to either. In such cases, you are a liability to yourself, to the public, and to the media. I think we are about to be reminded that this sort of thing ends badly.

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  1. Julie Ann Kodmur - September 10, 2020

    So very well said, Tom, an object lesson for all of us even in the weirdest of times.

  2. Bob Stern - September 10, 2020

    I have always appreciated your comments regarding the difficulties faced by consumers, small producers and distributors posed by government regulations and the three tier system. Today’s post is somewhat divergent from these past commentaries. Suffice it to say that, personalities aside, one must always manage the message. Outright lies are never acceptable, but managing mass hysteria and panic, and painting a hopeful positive message is preferable to one of doom and gloom. This is particularly true when all the facts are still unknown. In regard to the President’s misguided early messages, one must be directed to Dr. Fauci’s comments yesterday about what was known and mostly what was not known in the first months of the pandemic, and despite their publicized disagreements, yesterday made an ‘on the record statement and “denied that he ever heard the President ‘distort’ The threat of the coronavirus and maintained that Trump’s presentation to the public were largely in line with discussions he’d had with medical experts. When asked whether he ever felt Trump was downplaying the severity of the coronavirus, Fauci said ‘no’ (interview reported by Politico and covered by others). Suffice it to say, this has been a disaster and EVERY expert and politician has been wrong at times, and have made inappropriate and misleading statements. It’s what happens when bureaucrats rule.

  3. Tom Wark - September 10, 2020

    Bob,

    Thank you for all your support.

    My primary point isn’t to diss a president. It is to remind us that there is almost never any good reason to tell one thing to the media and something altogether different to the public. It’s bad messaging management.

  4. Paul O Franson - September 10, 2020

    Mark Twain supposedly said, “Liars have to have good memories.” A good reminder.

  5. rh drexel - September 10, 2020

    After reading Bob Stern’s comments, all I can say is VOTE. VOTE like your life depends upon it because there are plenty of folks out there, apparently, who are still willing to rationalize the criminal acts of a racist con man only out for himself and his pathologically aryan children.

  6. SLP - September 10, 2020

    Tom,
    Your “Op-Ed” on President Trump was inappropriate and off base for your newsletter. We have enough POLITICS in the fake news which has fueled the division in our country. The last thing I want is to have political tantrums on a professional page…. We have FaceBook for that! Please keep us informed of the important things related to our industry and keep your political bias out!

  7. rh drexel - September 10, 2020

    SLP says “The last thing I want…” Really typical of folks who think anything negative about Trump is “fake news”. So typical of his base….ME, ME, ME, ME. It’s not about what YOU want, SLP. Tom is reflecting upon common decency and the weight of moral imperatives and their implications.

  8. Tom Wark - September 10, 2020

    SLP,
    I’ve been offering opinion here at FERMENTATION for 16 years now.

    In my view, a reminder that saying one thing to the public and another thing to the media is a very bad strategy for any wine industry company,..well, for any company in fact. Communications is one of the things I’ve been involved in for 30 years. So, it’s of interest.

    So, please, pardon me.

  9. Tom Wark - September 10, 2020

    Thanks, RH. However, you may be giving my musings more gravitas than they deserve. But I’ll take it.

    Tom…

  10. VVP - September 11, 2020

    The western world has always been a double standard hypocrite, no other comments.

  11. Bill St. Croix - September 11, 2020

    I won’t speak for Tom, but will state what I got from the message. This parable of someone making two vastly different statements, one to the public and one to the media, is just an example of how mixed messaging does nothing positive. If anything it just drives more and more mixed messages, which creates an out of control situation. It’s a no-win situation. Everyone feels shorted, lied to, misled, affronted.

    Sure, Tom could have picked something less potentially ‘explosive’ but then you run into some people know one side or the other (public or media statement) or know neither of them and very few people know both. This was an example where many people know both based on the ongoing public communication and the recent media coverage of the reporter sharing the recorded conversations.

    When making a point, you usually try to find something that everyone is able to relate to, not something obscure, right?

  12. Bill St. Croix - September 11, 2020

    On the point of politics being interjected, I think that politics permeates nearly every aspect of the alcoholic beverage industry, doesn’t it? One can not separate the two when they are so closely intertwined. Just my opinion.


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