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.