How to know when your brand should stay silent—and when to speak up.

We are living in an era when a single 140-character tweet can set the news cycle spinning for days. With the pace so fast and the stakes so high, how can brands know when to weigh in on what’s happening in the news, and when to keep quiet?

As public relations counselors, this is a question we deal with every day. Engaging with the news cycle is absolutely critical to helping build awareness of our clients’ products, services and experts. But, it also has to be meaningful and goal-oriented. If you’re deciding whether or not to weigh in, here are a few questions to ask yourself.

  1. Is it strategic?

Does commenting on this issue help our brand reach its target audience? Will our position on the issue influence their thinking or inspire them to take a desired action?

Last year, we helped our client CohnReznick pen an op-ed for The Baltimore Sun on the anniversary of the civil unrest Baltimore experienced in response to the death of Freddie Gray. Because the unrest had a significant impact on downtown restaurants and other hospitality businesses, CohnReznick’s Director of Hospitality Consulting, Henry Pertman, had a unique opportunity to lend his expertise to a timely, highly newsworthy topic. But rather than focusing on the unrest in general, the goal of the op-ed was to motivate CohnReznick’s target audience of hospitality businesses to come together to bring Baltimore-area residents and visitors alike come back downtown to enjoy all that the city has to offer.

Commenting just to comment, especially on high-profile news stories, can often backfire for brands. Think carefully about whom your opinion will impact and how. Let this be your guide when deciding to weigh in or not.

  1. Is it helpful?

Do you have insight or information that will help people better understand the issue at hand?

One issue currently in the news is the delay of the “fiduciary rule,” a regulation that would require financial professionals to act in customers’ best interest when providing advice about their retirement accounts. Many financial professionals, including our clients, Conrad Siegel Actuaries, had been preparing for compliance with the rule, which was scheduled to go into effect this April. But President Trump recently signed an executive order delaying its enactment. This is a complex issue for both financial professionals and consumers, and everyone is looking for help to better understand how the recent changes will impact them. Conrad Siegel experts have been able to weigh in in outlets such as Financial Planning magazine, offering insight on how the rule’s postponement will impact employers.

If your organization possesses a unique expertise that could help to enlighten the average reader or viewer, then you should consider sharing it. Media are always looking for experts who can break down complex issues into laymen’s terms.

  1. Is it different?  

Has your take on the issue already been stated? If so, then this might not be your opportunity. When commenting on hot topics in the news, you want to make sure that you have a unique perspective to offer.

For example, our client Brad Masters, Director of Outreach at Serenity Acres Treatment Center, is in recovery from a dependency on prescription painkillers. He offers a unique perspective, having both dealt with opioid addiction himself and helped others to beat it. While other sources can offer statistics and medical insight, media were especially interested in speaking with Brad for a number of recent stories on the opioid epidemic specifically because of his personal experience.

Remember, good reporters will seek out multiple opinions to give a full picture of the issue at hand. They won’t be motivated to interview your expert unless he or she has something new or different to say. Think how you can position your experts so that they’ll stand out in the crowd.

If you’re wondering whether the time or topic is right for you to weigh in, consider these questions. Or, give us a call at 443-869-2197.

 

Courtney Benhoff is an Account Manager here at Abel. You can reach her at courtney@abelcommunications.com.