Monday, December 11, 2006

Promises! Promises!

Earning trust — the prime directive for public relations professionals — is all about keeping promises. Making promises can be easy. The challenge is in keeping them. In truth, a promise should be made only after careful deliberation.

In a survey I noted a few years ago, keeping promises ranked #1 among clients in the public relations business for what they most wanted from their agencies. I'd also rank it #1 among things I most want from employees, associates and others in the world of business. Those who make promises they consistently keep are, in my experience, the best of the best.

Too often, promises are thrown around like a child's toys, which are destined to stay on the floor until mom picks them up. I would venture to say that only 35 percent of all the telephone appointments I make actually happen, because the other party is so often a no-show. And these are just operational matters. Think of the promises not kept by top managers, religious leaders, politicians, public officials, etc.

Why is that so? I'm really not sure. Perhaps it seems simpler to say you’ll get back to someone — and then let the whole thing slide — than to be honest and risk a confrontation. Maybe in the short term. But how much better, in the long run, to tell a client (or a colleague) as soon as it’s clear that you won’t make a deadline … and to set a new deadline that you will meet. Embarrassing as it may be, the net result is to enhance your credibility.
Did you know that The New York Times runs articles from time to time that examine the promises made by elected officials, and whether they were ever fulfilled? A high rate are not, and there is no further mention of them by the promissor. Think of the credibility inherent in a prompt and forthright apology to the voters!

Okay. So what do we do? Do we just lower our expectations? That is certainly one route to reducing anxiety about undelivered promises.

But what if you are one of those rare people who keep their promises? I think it’s safe to say that you will rise faster … whatever the world you inhabit (business, media, the professions or academics). You will stand out among your colleagues. You will probably make more money, even if you are less talented (having both attributes is a recipe for big bucks!). People will want to work with you and for you. And you will have earned the admiration of nearly everyone!


Anonymous Anonymous said...


You are right in your comments about trust. As someone who studies trust for a living, I would underscore three things you said.

Trust has four components of what I and my co-authors call the Trust Equation--credibility, reliability, intimacy, and self-orientation.

When someone breaks promises, they destroy our sense of their credibility and reliability. When someone makes an outright lie, it destroys our sense of security and intimacy about them. And when someone behaves in a selfish way, we see that their self-orientation is high, and therefore their orientation toward us is low.

Sometimes, all four factors are at stake. If someone makes a promise that is then not kept, and it becomes clear that the promise was made with a clear intent to not keep it, and that the person benefits from not keeping it, that destroys trust on all levels.

Of the four factors, the strongest is self-orientation--behaving in ways that benefit the teller, not the receiver, of the promise made. Lying tends to involve all four factors.

Not keeping promises is a form of lying: leading people to believe what is not the case, or not to be the case.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006 9:07:00 PM  
Blogger Ken Makovsky said...


Therefore, we are on the same page. Thanks for your comments. What books have you written?


Monday, December 18, 2006 2:14:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Boy am I late getting back to you! Sorry.

I'm co-author of The Trusted Advisor, and author of Trust-based Selling.

Charlie Green

Wednesday, August 22, 2007 9:37:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

thanks 4 ur comments

Wednesday, October 10, 2007 10:54:00 PM  

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