America is in crisis.
Wages are stagnant, economic inequality is growing, a once-placated political class has started talking about taking a sledgehammer to our beloved conglomerates. It’s clearly time to recognize that decades-old orthodoxy about the primacy of the shareholder is no longer the only thing that responsible businesses should care about- they also need to have a killer public relations strategy to keep the angry mobs at bay.
The visionary Henry Ford once wisely observed that it’s not enough to build a good car, you also need to give your workers a token pay raise in order to generate some good press. Giving his employees the ability to purchase a Ford car of their very own did more than pad the company’s bottom line—it gave generations of plutocrats a handy anecdote for reporters to lap up.
We like to think of our employees as investments, in the sense that modern technology has enabled us to purchase and then dump them at unprecedented speeds. Something you learn quickly in the business world is that not every investment pans out- companies fail, recessions happen, employees get pregnant and start demanding parental leave. The important thing is to keep the larger goal in mind, and then send out a press release about adding a ping pong table to the break room.
Much like a well-indexed mutual fund, we firmly believe that our workforces should be thoroughly diversified, so as to mitigate risk in times of volatility. No matter your race, gender or price-earnings ratio, your contributions to the company’s greater public image has intrinsic value. After all, when the inevitable “culture of sexual harassment” charges start to emerge, there’s no better media insurance policy than having a few token ladies on your executive boards.
Personally, as a chief executive officer of one of the world’s most valuable companies, I’ve learned the importance of unleashing Innovation, which is the name of my Swiss mountain dog whom I keep nearby during interviews to make me seem personable. By unleashing Innovation I’ve come to understand that America’s workers need more than just a steady paycheck, they need a CEO who gets humanizing profiles from fawning news publications.
Americans deserve an economy that doesn’t just work for the multinational corporations. It has to also work for the limited liability companies, the joint ventures, and the sole proprietorships. Not just for the chief executives sitting high their penthouse suites, but also for the lowly media relations directors sitting several floors lower, perhaps at desks fashioned out of one of the lesser hardwoods, such as oak.
Most of all, Americans deserve a country where their business leaders have sufficiently burnished public personas such that they aren’t carried off to the guillotines by a horde of pitchfork-wielding peasants. As socially-conscious businesses we can longer simply be beholden to a small group of corporate investors, we have an obligation to also think about a small group of corporate media executives. It’s high time we wake up and realize that being a corporation in 2019 is about more than profits, it’s about seeing your name on a crowded newsstand and thinking “Wow. I seem like a really good person.”
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