Public Relations

PR Tips: Never Whine in Public

Source: Xenia, Morguefile.com license
Source: Xenia, Morguefile.com license

 

When I read a headline like this, I gag.

“Chelsea Clinton: I tried to care about money.” (NY Daily News)

Oh dear me, you poor baby! With millions and millions of dollars, an investment banker husband, wealthy parents and a cushy job from said parents…you TRIED to care about money?

Now, I doubt I’ll ever be in the position to be asked the same question as the former president’s daughter. And I’m not knocking being wealthy – far from it. I don’t mind if you’re rich. More power to you and enjoy what you have.

Just don’t pretend that you aren’t rich when you are.

Don’t make it seem like money isn’t important when the whole world knows you’ve got plenty of it, and the readers of the paper are struggling to pay the rent, put their kids through college and fill their gas tanks to drive to work each week.

The public hates hearing rich, privileged people whine about their wealth and opportunities. It’s like when the BP oil spill happened in the Gulf and the CEO complained about how he just wanted to get his life back. The people along the gulf coast were outraged, and with good reason. The CEO wanted his life back? How about the people who fished or shrimped for a living, who ran hotels or resorts or charter boats or restaurants that relied on tourism, now suspended because of an oil slick that threatened not just their comfort in the next few weeks but their entire lives? That’s another good example of what NOT to say in public.

Here’s what we can learn from the former BP CEO and from Chelsea Clinton. While you and I might not be interviewed during a crisis like an oil spill or asked why we joined our parents’ foundation, we may have to navigate PR waters some day, and it’s a good thing to learn as much as you can before you’re in a situation that gets out of hand.

  • Pause and think before you answer a reporter’s questions: If you’re doing a live interview on television or radio, remain focused and don’t worry about pausing before answering. You don’t have to be glib or quick with your answers. It is better to be slow and thoughtful than to put a foot in your mouth. The same goes for telephone interviews with reporters. Take it easy and think before you speak.
  • Always keep it positive.  Chelsea Clinton, when asked why she joined her parents’ foundation, should have focused on her positive motivations. “I don’t care about money” sounds snobby, greedy and just plain silly to most Americans. Instead, she should have emphasized what she DID care about – namely, the same causes that her parents espouse and support through the foundation. It’s amusing to consider that she wanted to distance herself from her parents’ ideals but couldn’t, and that was a good starting place to build rapport with her audience. But she went off message by emphasizing money over ideals.
  • Stay on message! Public relations experts talk about remaining ‘on message’ during communications opportunities. Every person, company, cause or brand has a message behind it.  Know what drives your business and your mindset, and what the overall, overarching message you want to convey to the public is, and always bring your points around to that message.

 

You can’t control the media, but you CAN control your response to it. Emphasize the positive, stay on message and pause, think and breathe before responding. You’ll be glad you did when the interviews turn out favorable!

 

 

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