Public Relations

What Christoforo Taught Us About Communications in Business

Rogue Employee

Where others drop the ball, we can learn from their mistakes, and while there’s no doubt that Christoforo certainly did, others had their hand in it as well. The good news is that we can all learn from their horrible examples!

Communication is Crucial, So What is it?

Despite it’s importance to business sustainability, “communications” still appears to be lacking in many crucial areas of life and work.

Even though the term “communications” can appear nebulous at best, a clear understanding of it is absolutely crucial in all aspects of a successful business. From operations management to customer relations, there’s no doubt that it can either make or break a business. An excellent marketing campaign will accomplish little if operations managers can’t communicate clearly with their employees, just as an organization’s reputation can take a hit due to the errant and sometimes vulgar tongue of a rogue company representative.

For many businesses, these types of mistakes are simply not an option. So what steps can a company take to ensure that they are on the right track?

The Ocean Marketing Debacle Will Tell Us

For a particularly harrowing example, former Ocean Marketing PR representative Paul Christoforo essentially committed career suicide when he began a sustained verbal barrage against a customer, and later, some influential industry leaders. The resulting online fallout caused Christoforo to be ousted from his contracted position, leaving N-Control to try and reverse the damage he’d done.

What makes this even more sad is the fact that Christoforo was deliberately tasked with handling public relations duties concerning the Avenger controller attachment, a device targeted towards performance-driven gamers and those with physical handicaps. What prompted his blow-up was a customer asking about his order status.

Regardless of whether or not the employee is a third-party vendor like Christoforo, it’s absolutely crucial to ensure that your employees are tuned-in to their work and are onboard with the overall vision of the company.

This infographic from Ohio University discusses four ways that employers can attract and find talented candidates who meld well with the company’s vision, and include:

  • Using talent assessment tools during the interview process.
  • Inquire about the applicant’s preferences regarding work.
  • Ask about their hobbies and goals.

And the big one that could’ve made N-Control think twice before contracting Christoforo:

  • Question applicants about how they’d approach certain challenges that they’ll face on the job.

Had N-Control asked Christoforo these types of questions or delving into his background before retaining him, perhaps they may have discovered some red flags that would bar him from consideration as a customer-facing representative for their product. Which also brings up the other point of this whole debacle.

In his role as public relations coordinator, Christoforo was granted domain access to N-Control’s email address as well as their website. Further, the contact phone number listed for the domain went to Christoforo during a time when the company was doing everything they could to distance themselves from him. To make matters worse, Christoforo wasn’t initially forthcoming in returning N-Control’s digital assets, but as of December 30, 2011, appeared to be cooperating.

The Lesson

One important aspect of any customer relationship management program is to constantly monitor its progress. Even with Christoforo operating in a third party capacity, N-Control would have done well to not only consistently monitor his email exchanges, but also provide their customers a means to contact them directly if the need arises.

In the initial model, Christoforo had the power to do and say whatever he wanted, while flying under the Avenger controller banner, all while the company he represented was completely oblivious to what was being exchanged.

In order for a business to protect its bottom line, it’s always a good idea to keep an eye on third party operations. Effective and consistent communication is crucial, at and beyond the initial interview, and may prevent scenarios like this from occurring altogether. It may have even prevented the continued online attack of Christoforo after the story was aired to Penny Arcade co-founder, Mike Krahulik, who then shared it to his millions of site visitors.

Before it reaches that point, managers need to practice effective communication and transparency at all times, for both employees and third party contractors. Control can be elusive even at the best of times, but clear communication can help empower people where control is impossible.

The sad truth is that if a company doesn’t take control of its communications, someone else will, as illustrated by the N-Control/Christoforo scenario. Don’t let poor communication allow that to happen to you.

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Paul Tomaszewski is a science & tech writer as well as a programmer and entrepreneur. He is the founder and editor-in-chief of CosmoBC. He has a degree in computer science from John Abbott College, a bachelor's degree in technology from the Memorial University of Newfoundland, and completed some business and economics classes at Concordia University in Montreal. While in college he was the vice-president of the Astronomy Club. In his spare time he is an amateur astronomer and enjoys reading or watching science-fiction. You can follow him on LinkedIn and Twitter.

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