In PR, Silence Isn’t Golden; Respect Your Audiences

California v StanfordThey say silence is golden. True, if you’re looking out over the Grand Canyon during a beautiful sunrise. But in the world of high-stakes media, silence is often a man’s worst friend. Yet, coming from a sports PR background, I’ve seen countless athletes, coaches and owners/administrators try to stymie the inevitable with pure silence. And in almost every case, it comes back to haunt them . . . big time.

Case in point: Tiger Woods’ recent . . . umm . . . driving difficulties and his refusal to speak to authorities after he somehow managed to run his care into a fire hydrant and a tree at 2:30 a.m. because that’s so common that it doesn’t merit a response.

Or Notre Damn football coach Charlie Weis refusing to meet with members of the media following yet another heartbreaking loss by the Fighting Irish Saturday night at Stanford (a common practice of all coaches—at all levels—no matter the outcome of the game) in what will surely be Weis’ final game leading the Fighting Rudy’s.

The problem with each of these scenarios, and countless others just like them (how many times do you see a pissed off wide receiver [cough . . . Randy Moss . . . cough] say to the media “No more questions!” when someone asks why they dropped a pass that was right at their chest?) is that many in the sports world fail to realize that they no longer live in an isolated world. This isn’t 1950, and Bobby Thompson didn’t just win the pennant for the New York Giants (the former baseball version).

This is 2009. EVERYTHING you say and do as a public figure (and yes, Mr. Woods and Mr. Weis, you are both public figures) is seen, heard and dissected by your fans, the general public and the world. It’s time to start acting like you understand this fact.

The same applies to your company’s CEO, spokesperson, famous widget maker, etc. If they are in a position where people look to them to set the tone or trend of the time, then they had better have a very strong grasp of the fact that when you shun the media, or when you are rude to them, hang up the phone on them because you don’t like their line or tone of questioning, that will get reported and you are basically saying “Screw you!” to your key audiences/influencers and your fans, the exact people you don’t want to piss off from ANY reason.

So the next time your CEO says he doesn’t have time to speak with that key trade publication because its 30,000 circulation to your exact audience doesn’t ring as loud as reaching the Wall Street Journal’s audience of more than 2 million, take a deep breath, look him or her in the eye and do your job as a PR professional. Tell them they have a duty to speak to their public. It’s the right and respectable thing to do.

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