No matter how big your headquarters city or global market, your world still operates like a small town. While telephone party lines are largely a thing of the past, the concept lives on in the social media universe, where people can all jump on one "line" (say Facebook or Twitter) to spread news about you.

When the news is good, this is a good thing. And a fair number of people are happy to share positive experiences or results. But when the news is bad, the "party line" is bad, bad, bad. Anyone who's been in middle school knows how much more fun most people have spreading bad news, talking smack and mongering rumors. Good news spreads. Bad news spreads faster.

You can't keep every shred of bad news from the world. Earning go down. Employees are embroiled in scandals. Disasters strike. That's why it's important to not CREATE bad news. Don't be rude to customers. Don't handle unsatisfied consumers with disrespect or hostility. Don't shout down an opponent. Don't write scathing blog posts or editorials or memos (that might leak).

If you didn't grow up in a small town where everyone was always up in your business, this might be a hard concept to grasp. But if you watched The Andy Griffith Show or saw Steel Magnolias, you get it.

Try to bring this ethic to your business dealings. Think of everyone as someone your mama or granddaddy knew -- and what they might tell your kin about your behavior. Think about your own family, and how you'd like them to be treated in a similar situation. Act accordingly.


For more on playing nice and other business lessons from small town life, click here. And if you want help constructing a communications strategy, contact me.