Minnich: It’s mission, not marketing

It’s easy for a so-called journalist to sit on the mountain and pontificate about the difference between piracy and what is called at business conferences, “aggressive business strategies.”

But that’s what journalists are sometimes paid to do — paid poorly, I must add. It’s a dirty job, but somebody has to do it, and when you find you’re good at something you should do it with some resolve, if not joy. But you have to remember your mission.


It’s different from marketing. Marketing is an honorable profession, well within the line of what is legal and what is not, but there’s a constant risk of forgetting what it is you have been and want to continue selling.

A salesperson carries out the plan of the marketing director, who often answers to the CEO, who in turn reports to a board of directors, who again in turn looks to the interests of investors, be they stockholders or customers of the goods or services being offered to the public.

All well and good, but things can get off track so easily that in no time at all, the business can lose all credibility, see once-loyal customers revolt, and even find themselves facing legal jeopardy. Lawsuits, or even criminal charges. It often begins with the idea that transparency is sometimes too inconvenient.

It can depend on what you’re marketing, and to whom. A contract is usually involved in any transaction, but when it becomes more of a defense to hide behind for the vendor than a guarantee of satisfaction to the client, you have taken the first step toward corruption of you position, your mission, and your business — or service.

A lot depends on what expectations have been set forth by the business; what expectations have been implied or encouraged the clients to infer.

If you have a mission statement, and you’ve touted it proudly, you’d better live up to it.

Everyone knows that there’s a risk involved in buying a car, for example. A new car comes with a warranty. A limited warranty, because all warranties are limited by reasonable expectation. You expect the seller to fix an engine that blows out before the times do, but a reasonable person understands that you must service the car and maintain it to preserve the warranty.

It’s different with a home or apartment. Now you’re dealing with someone’s most personal space, their essential need for security and shelter. If you sell someone a home there’s an implied — if not contractual — obligation that you keep your word to the person who has entrusted their life’s savings, or a substantial investment of their holdings, financially and emotionally.

That is a contract of faith, and a breach of faith regarding a person’s home is not covered by any contract. It’s decided in the courts of public opinion, ultimately, and not a court of law. The individual who loses the most is the one whose public image is tarnished, perhaps without remedy.

Investors, realtors and bankers all count on attorneys to keep them in business and preserve profits, but there is a point at which none of that matters; it is not about what is legal, it is about what is right, or perceived to be ethical and honorable.

It’s all about public perception.

A hospital may be well-managed, staffed by competent professionals, and have a record of excellent health services. It can survive the normal limitations of human effort resulting in human tragedy. But if it does anything that indicates it cares more for its marketing plan than its patients, it is in danger of losing faith with the public. It can take years to recover from a bad marketing decision.

Colleges and universities, public schools, political dynasties and personal legacies can crash on the rocks of miscalculation driving a desire to reach too far, forgetting their mission.