To Communicate - or Not

business public relations Jul 06, 2020

I have been on the fence about whether or not to address this topic because, honestly, I wasn’t quite sure about what I would say. We live in a complex time and there is no easy, straight forward way to approach it. The pandemic, the racial reckoning, the political mess - it’s a lot to deal with for us as humans and communicators.

We’ve had conversations about this on my weekly coaching call for my Design PR Insider Membership, and I very much appreciate everyone’s perspective. Not having grown up here in the U.S., I sometimes feel like I am missing some of the experience and history that inform people’s perceptions of the issue who have always lived here, especially when it comes to the BLM issue. But I am open and ready to learn. 

As a communicator, here is what I would say to you if you have a design business or another business in an industry not directly related to any of the hot topics:

  • As a rule, always communicate openly and honestly. If you are not sure what to say, don’t say anything. Stay open and keep learning. This doesn’t mean that you don’t care!
  • If you have good news and make a positive contribution to the issues, do talk about it, but don’t try to profit by taking advantage of the situation with a self-serving statement. In PR there is a school of thought that teaches you to piggy-back on trending topics. This can work well under the right circumstances, but it can also backfire if it doesn’t come from a truly authentic place.
  • Business is still business. Not every business announcement needs to be framed in the context of the current social, cultural and political problems. Without being insensitive, a beautifully designed home can still be just that, for instance. This does not mean that you are ignoring what is happening in the world, but that you are taking your job and business seriously.
  • Finally, my best piece of PR advice for business: Stay away from politics and religion if you can help it. But do participate and engage in charitable projects and organizations - just choose them wisely and make sure they align with your business values and philosophy.

Bottom line, do communicate, be authentic, be smart - and don’t obsess over it. If you say something well-intentioned and it is perceived the wrong way, remember that we are all human and just do the best we can. And, as Maya Angelou said, when we know better, we do better.


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