Cautiously Optimistic

Social media for better communication and a better life

Posts Tagged ‘public relations

A Good Way to Break Bad News

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Being a better communicator means sometimes having to break bad news, in a sensitive but direct way.

Public relations practitioners sometimes find themselves in no-win situations, explaining or justifying their organization in the face of criticism from external audiences and their own internal stakeholders.

We sometimes find ourselves in no-win situations in our personal lives as well, when we must share something that we really, really wish we didn’t have to. It reminds me of the title of the Harlan Ellison short-story collection “I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream,” when we discover that we are simultaneously torn between having to say something and being unwilling or unable to say it.

Writer Adam Dachis of the Lifehacker blog recently posted some good advice on how to break out of that “can’t say it/must say it” trap. It sounds simple, but is quite powerful: instead of beating around the bush, you must phrase the bad news in as simple a message as possible, and then go ahead and deliver the message.

Putting things off or minimizing the impact of your words will not make a situation better. It’s like only partially removing a splinter from your finger. It may not hurt as much, but the pain is still there.

To that, I would add the thought that you must be prepared for the consequences of the bad news you have just shared. You can choose what to tell someone, but you cannot choose how they react to it. Only they get to decide how they want to react to it. It’s like un-ringing a bell: you can’t do it. Once you have said something, it’s out of your control.

It’s the same way with social media, only faster. If you give a person bad news in a direct, face-to-face conversation, it may not go much farther than that. But if you post bad news to your social media sites, it’s instantly shared with everyone you know, and archived for all time in The Great Internet Cloud.

That loss of control is one reason why I don’t think social media are an appropriate place for sharing bad news. More than one person I know has accidently informed all of their Facebook friends of a breakup by allowing their change of relationship status to be posted to their news feed.

So even if it is not possible to avoid being the bearer of bad tidings, there certainly are better ways to do it.

Follow me on Twitter at @charlesprimm.


Written by Charles Primm

February 2, 2012 at 6:29 pm

Information Subsidies or Just Good Stories?

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When public relations professors and researchers talk about news releases and tip sheets, they don’t call them news releases, they call them “information subsidies.”

I am about to finish my master’s degree in public relations, so I have taken my fair share of classes on public relations theory and practice.

When I first encountered the phrase in one of my classes, I experienced an “aha” moment: I had never thought about it before, but I knew instantly that it was exactly correct.

A big part of what we do as public relations professionals is produce information subsidies, or content that helps journalists do their jobs easily and more quickly. With layoffs and hiring freezes in newsrooms, the remaining staffers are squeezed as never before, so the assistance we provide in tracking down good stories can be very helpful to the working media.

Standard stuff for a PR practitioner, right? Yes. But as social media accelerates change in all forms of communication, practitioners will need to expand their own definition of what qualifies as an “information subsidy.”

The PR Daily blog recently posted a great roundup of how changes in media content delivery will impact public relations.

For me, the takeaway points were:

1) remember that journalists are not just looking for text anymore, they are looking for multimedia opportunities,

2) don’t try to pitch reporters using social media, but

3) do get to know the reporters via their social media profiles.

Building and maintaining good relationships with journalists is a must for PR professionals, and social media is one more way of doing just that.

Follow me on Twitter at @charlesprimm.

Written by Charles Primm

January 29, 2012 at 8:26 pm

Look on the Bright Side!

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Welcome to the first entry for my first blog, “Cautiously Optimistic.” True to its title, this blog is not going to break any dishes, shatter any paradigms, bloody any noses, or get too carried away. At least not too often.

What I hope it will do is set a tone of hopefulness, wisdom, and, yes, optimism about the future.

My professional background is in journalism and public relations. I will share what I have learned over the years, both in school and in the School of Hard Knocks, as well as my thoughts and opinions of current events and future trends, to explore how we can improve ourselves and each other, how we communicate, and how social media can play a role in that process of discovery and improvement.

My goal is to use this forum to persuade you that improvement is possible in all areas of our lives. Will I achieve that goal? As you might have guessed, I remain cautiously optimistic.


Follow me on Twitter at @charlesprimm.

Written by Charles Primm

January 24, 2012 at 8:00 pm