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Know what you are saying…

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Public Relations is essential to an entrepreneur, who tries to keep his head above water. Business  executives  surround themselves with corporate lawyers and chief financial officers, because they don’t want to burn their fingers on complicated legal or financial matters. But once public relations is concerned, they take matters into their own hands.  Trust me, in most cases they have no idea of the impact of theri actions. Men and women at the top and many politicians think they have much sense of communication, but their actions are the often cause of damages. And it doesn’t stop with a  tedious piece in the newspaper.


Take for instance the Dutch minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem this week. Especially in the foreign media he was completely slated for his unclear comments in an interview with Reuters and Financial Times. He said that the approach to rescue the banks of Cyprus – whereby not the taxpayers end up with the bill, but those who took the financial risks – would be an approach for future use elsewhere.  Reuters and FT called Dijsselbloem’s Cyprus approach a template for the rest of Europe. He didn’t deny. This led to panic on the financial markets and heavy criticism especially from France and England. Dijsselbloem explained hastily that he didn’t know the word template  (yeah, right..), but actually he did give an answer to a question in which template precisely was the issue. He actually gave a veiled confirmation.


Poor communication costs a lot of money, also in this case. The markets reacted promptly to the words of Dijsselbloem, who became a lame duck. Reaction of Dijsselbloem: denial. Error: Never argue with the man who buys ink by the barrel.  And that was evident because both Reuters and the FT went went futher pulling down Dijsselbloem. Read this out.


Openness is the key to success. That seems logical, but whether it is smart? Sometimes it is better - especially true for a junior Minister and freshly appointed President of the ECB - to stick to my motto: "Do not say everything you know, but know what you're saying!"


- Cees Steijger