Originally published in the Boulder Daily Camera and the Longmont Daily Times-Call.

“Buffaloes will bite your toes”.

I was a wee-tot and I had a lot of unanswered questions churning inside my head. When we drove by a herd of buffalo grazing in a game refuge, one of those questions popped out. “Why do buffalo always have their heads down?”

“Buffalo aren’t like horses or cows,” Dad answered, “they’re sneaky critters. Buffaloes will bite your toes. That’s why they always have their heads down. So they can get your toes when you’re not looking.” That sounded like good information to me. I filed it away for future reference.

My time to shine came when my second-grade class spotted a herd of buffalo while we were on a field trip. “Buffaloes will bite your toes!” I yelled excitedly. “Will not!” several classmates shouted back. “Will too,” I insisted. “My dad told me so.” A fierce will not, will too debate raged. Our field trip ended with the issue unresolved. My teacher called my dad to ask if he really told me that buffalo were toe-eaters. He laughed, noting that he was only kidding his daughter.

Dad still thinks it was funny, but I don’t. I’m not in the habit of proclaiming things to be facts when they’re really fiction.

Many years ago it was easy to check sources. That’s what my teacher did when she called dad. In today’s business world few people cite sources. People are quick to accept what they hear without question or fact-checking. Reading something on the internet or seeing it on YouTube doesn’t mean it is true.

People are quick to share comments or spread rumors about businesses via social media. At the same time, businesses are relying on the internet to get their messages in the eyes, ears and minds of current and potential customers and clients. Businesses can be ruined and reputations severely damaged when gossip is accepted as fact, when malicious comments are believed or when unsupported or undocumented claims are false.

Before making any representations or claims, every business must be prepared to back up its words with facts. Every business also must be prepared to initiate actions when false comments or claims are made against them. Facts are the best defense against negative publicity. Facts also are the best offense when implementing new marketing, communication or public relations programs.

Keep in mind the “why” of your business. Why are you doing what you do? Why are you providing the goods and services you offer? Why are you better than your competitors? Why should people go out of their way to do business with you? Those are some of the questions that must be answered honestly before the answers are pitched to the public in any form. Each answer must be supported by facts.

Some businesses stretch the truth when dealing with the public. You can see examples whenever you tune in infomercials or surf the internet. Claims made range from the sublime to the ridiculous. Representations promise health, wealth, happiness, beauty, bliss and everything in between. But where are the facts to back the claims or representations? As a little old lady in a popular television ad always asked, “Where’s the beef?”

Every business is as good as its reputation. Those with the best reputations deal in realities. They embrace facts as a way of doing business. They’re winners because they can be trusted. Customers/clients take them at their word.

Dad’s always a winner in my book, but he falls short in the trust department. It’s hard to trust a guy who tells little girls that buffaloes will eat their toes.

Stacy Cornay is the owner of Communication Concepts Public Relations & Advertising. 
She may be reached at 303-651-6612; scornay@comm-concepts.com; www.comm-concepts.com; Facebook.com/Communication Concepts; Twitter @CommConceptsPR; or Linked In.

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