Is silence the new PR strategy?

Even if you ain’t interested in politics and don’t understand what it entails, you couldn’t have stayed away from the latest ‘coup’ that everyone has been talking about. Just how the Maharashtra government was formed overnight, defying the opposition and the ones who hoped to be forming the government. Even the best in media didn’t get a whiff of what was going down in reality. 

While the last two weeks were full of media stories talking about who intends to take over as the CM of the state, our PM and his best wing man stayed quiet. I don’t know about others, but I wondered why the magician was quiet despite the unwarranted changed winds. Could it be a strategy, to let everyone share their story, yet not confirm to anything? Or speak only if you create an impact and not to participate in a mudslinging battle? 

What would this be like in the PR universe? We would have termed it as a crisis and ensured to either speak first or be ready with a response everytime competition said something. Maybe after you rethink, is this really necessary? Do we have to be ‘reactive’ to competition always? Can we let the noise die down without any credibility, since we don’t lend our voice to their campaign? Acknowledging and responding is also a strategy. Staying quiet and not responding can also be a great strategy. And if you happen to pre-empt what the competition intends to speak and share your story earlier than others, maybe that’s great beginning too. 

Maybe you don’t wish to term this situation as a crisis at all! The objective is to communicate that sometimes not speaking can help you plan better and ruffle the feathers, when someone is least expecting it. 

Can this be applicable in all sorts of situations, when in crisis? Maybe no. The concerns around Maggi had to be addressed immediately. Also, because it wasn’t about reacting to competition, but speaking to the customers. Hence, the strategy can definitely be decided once you have confirmed who is the target audience you speaking to. Somehow, gets easier to decide, whether the situation has to be categorised as a crisis and whom do you need to respond to. 

Even though foodtech has been flourishing in the last few years, unexpected conversations are equally growing with it. Let me explain. For example, when Zomato’s delivery boy had eaten away from the parcel, before delivering the same to the customer? Or when a customer denied to take the food delivery, because of the Zomato employee’s religion. Both instances saw Zomato responding within a short span of time and in the second case they even attempted to lighten up the situation. But at the same time, they didn’t spend precious employee time responding to the trolls or share anything beyond their official stance. Silence again. Maybe its good to mix a little bit of silence, before or after, brands have shared their side of the story. 

So, define what is a crisis for your brand. Identify the real triggers and the audience that this affects. Shortlist the public face to speak and the key messaging. Monitor constantly and then decide to react or stay silent.

Pooja Trehan
Pooja Trehan, AVP, Communications & Public Policy.

Bringing up a 7 year-old boy and building a career in Communications have possibly been the key driving forces in my life! Obviously, apart from the 6am runs and eternal love for black coffee. The reality of 2020 hit this industry with the worst storm, but gave me a silver lining through awards & recognition in the 40Under40 category for PR and Corporate communication professionals (three of them in one year!). My goal is to keep - Communications - as the big picture, whilst being the wanderlust traveller who is reading all the time!

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