Should PR gossips keep quiet?

Mark Borkowski argues in favour of tough action against any PR employee engaging in gossiping – reflecting the approach of Chicago based agency, .

This might seem odd when Public Relations itself is engaged in maximising word of mouth communications, which arguably is the essence of gossip.

Of course, the issue here is the corrosive type of gossiping that involves “vicious backbiting.”  Such negative behaviour generally takes place behind someone’s back and is designed to undermine and question those who are the topic of conversation.

Sometimes, however, critical gossip reveals a truth that isn’t spoken about through official communication channels.  In seeking to prevent expression of views, could the organisation miss out of valuable feedback – even when that might be perceived to question current operations?

In such cases, management needs to consider how it can use such reflection to improve the way the organisation runs.  Being able to critique and stimulate innovation is vital in a creative discipline like PR.

At the same time, positive gossip should be encouraged.  In many organisations the unofficial channel of communications can be the quickest and most efficient way of enabling information flow.  Understanding and linking into internal connections and networks is a vital component of PR communications.

Another consideration is the impact of those who prefer to “be honest” rather than talking about someone privately.  This is something we hear all the time via reality television – where confrontation is portrayed as more ethical than having a quiet moan.

Speaking your mind, openly and publicly, is not necessarily a better approach – and often resembles bullying.  I feel this is as destructive as snide bitching.  Such people are often just being rude.  There are times when diplomacy and tact are required rather than “in your face”, so called, honesty.

Thumper The best advice is that provided by Thumper to Bambi, citing the baby rabbit’s father:

If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothing at all.

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Heather Yaxley

Heather Yaxley is passionate about PR - teaching the CIPR qualifications, lecturing part-time at Bournemouth University and running the Motor Industry Public Affairs Association (MIPAA). I'm undertaking a PhD looking at Career Strategies in PR. I love sharing ideas and knowledge - connecting news and views by blogging on public relations and educational developments, especially relating to accelerated and active learning. I'm also a published author, qualified trainer and experienced consultant.

2 thoughts on “Should PR gossips keep quiet?”

  1. I was once teaching a “PR for micro businesses” class to entrepreneurs and asked the class to define PR. One woman said “PR is gossip.”

    I laughed. But then, I realized maybe she was right.

    “Publicity,” one commonplace aspect of PR, is in many ways like gossip. Both terms refer in part to people talking about you when you’re not there. Of course, good publicists work very hard and are paid very well to influence what is being said!

  2. One definition of reputation that I like is “what people say about you when you are not around” – so as PR is linked to reputation management by the Chartered Institute of Public Relations, then it might be right to say that PR is managing what people say about you when you aren’t around – which has to relate to gossip.

    The danger in seeing this as publicity is that if there is a gap between what you are promoting and the reality, the gossips will help spread the negative much more readily than the message you might wish to publicise.

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