Do Unto Others

While the Golden Rule Is Simple for a Child, It Can Be Complicated, Paradoxical and Daunting for Adults Trying to Manage Large Companies.

Most of us learned the golden rule from our mothers: Do unto others, as you would have them do unto you. Or maybe we got the message more succinctly: Play nice. If we didn’t, we went to bed without supper or didn’t get to watch TV for a week.

Adults should have a deeper understanding of this tacit rule that governs most civilized human interaction. Public relations practitioners use the golden rule to evaluate and manage communication. In fact, it is often said that companies that follow the golden rule almost don’t need public relations.

While the golden rule is so simple that a child can follow it, it is complicated, paradoxical and daunting for adults who are trying to manage large companies. Public relations professionals identify four public groups and monitor and manage the organization’s reputation with all four: shareholders, employees, customers and the community. It is necessary to consider all four groups when making business decisions, because very often actions that benefit one organizational public can disappoint or enrage another public.

A fundamental job of upper management is to consider the company’s reputation with all four groups. It is commonly understood that the company needs to make a profit, that customers want quality services and products at competitive prices, that employees want job security, and that the community wants a partner that contributes to the wellbeing of everyone in the area. Most of us have at least an intuitive understanding of the need to keep things in balance, and usually if company decisions are fair and reasonable, each of the four public groups understands when concessions have to be made for the others.

Black Mountain Sand’s Vest and El Dorado frac sand mines recently were awarded a Certificate of Inclusion by the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. They voluntarily committed to limiting mining to areas outside the mapped habitat of the endangered Dunes Sagebrush Lizard. Their reason for cooperating with their community publics? According to a story in the Business Wire, Black Mountain officials said they want to be good neighbors and to contribute to the community.

Conversely, Martin Marietta is antagonizing its community publics by trying to force a historic Colorado amusement park out of business. According to Colorado Public Radio, Alan Bader who owns the park is still trying to keep it open, but Martin Marietta is now claiming that the park is unsafe and is trying to evict him.

The company’s Spec Agg Quarry purchased land that surrounds the Heritage Amusement Park. After the owner of the park refused to sell to the quarry, Marietta reportedly demolished the Heritage Square area and closed down businesses on the property it purchased, according to the report.

Then they removed the sign for the amusement park and demolished the public restrooms. They also reportedly bought the rights to the name and told the amusement park they could no longer use it.

Martin Marietta may very well have a good business reason for their actions, but to the outside world, this is not a good look.

Quarries seem independent of the communities they operate in because they mostly work behind berms and fences, and sell their product to customers who often don’t know and don’t care where their sand and gravel and stone originate. But consider all the other ways that quarries interact with their surrounding communities.

They send their trucks down city, county and state roads. They have to work within legal parameters that allow or disallow mining in certain areas. They are at the mercy of zoning boards, safety regulations, noise ordinances and eventually the local court system. And most of their employees live within an hour’s drive of their facilities.

In the long run, quarries, whether they like it or not, are part of a social network of neighboring entities, and neighbors can be friends or they can be enemies. Black Mountain may be cooperating with local officials out of genuine good will, or they may be cooperating because they realize that the golden rule also works in reverse. If mom’s advice isn’t good enough, Martin Marietta should consider that, if it wants, the community could very well try to do to them what they are doing to the amusement park.

Thomas J. Roach, Ph.D., has 30 years experience in communication as a journalist, media coordinator, communication director and consultant. He has taught at Purdue University Northwest since 1987, and is the author of “An Interviewing Rhetoric.” He can be reached at [email protected].

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