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Daniel Keeney

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Shut Up and Reap the Benefits

Don't underestimate how powerful silence can be.

I don’t know many organizations seeking help from a public relations agency that are satisfied with the recommendation to shut up. But it is often the best advice — at least for a period of time. Instead, PR firms typically recommend programs designed to increase visibility through ubiquitous communications. They want you out there as often as possible saying as much as possible.

In the meantime, so much exposure risks confusing what you are really all about.

In my view, it is better to pick and choose carefully. Pursue those communications opportunities that support the profile you want to establish and that give you an opportunity to showcase the differentiators that make your organization and/or its products/services special.

What is often lost on the PR community is that silence IS one of the tools of communicators and it can be especially powerful in times of trouble.

This comes to mind after reading the excellent piece on by Steve Cody, the managing partner of Peppercom, “Why Nobody is Talking About Your Company.” Cody makes the following point:

I cannot tell you how many CEOs have called me in a panic demanding I develop an immediate statement for a fast-breaking crisis. Not understanding the subtle nuances of image and reputation, many executives—particularly entrepreneurs—believe a thermonuclear response to a product recall or ethics scandal is the only way to go. It isn’t. Not by a long shot. The key to crisis management is understanding the magnitude of the crisis, its potential implications, and the real effect it could have on the organization’s brand. By issuing an immediate response or rebuttal to news, a company may be inadvertently escalating a crisis that would otherwise slip silently under the airwaves.

Obviously, you need to balance the desire to allow things to quietly get back to normal with the benefits of helping to frame the story in order to fairly present the facts — anticipating that a vacuum of information will inevitably be filled by rumors and speculation if you don’t. So if other voices are present, it typically is a good idea to be a part of that discussion. Present the facts, explain how you are responding, express concern for those impacted and vow to participate in the fact finding.

And then let your actions in solving the problem speak for you.


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Dan Keeney is the president of DPK Public Relations, which represents PULSE, The Aldridge Company, Schipul - The Web Marketing Company, Society for Heart Attack Prevention and Eradication, ERHC Energy, Saint Arnold Brewing Company, Arocha Hair Restoration among other companies. Specialties include helping organizations increase their positive visibility and establish and strengthen relationships with influencers in their markets.