When keeping mum is right ma’am!22nd June 2012
I will admit to not being a great fan of Hello or the Daily Mail’s celebrity focus and it seems to me bizarre that we know every minute detail of the lives of some very unimportant people. But there is one shining beacon in this celebrity-obsessed age who has resolutely stayed quiet, not given any interviews, nor confessed her inner demons: and that is the Queen.
Throughout her sixty years on the throne, the Queen’s words to her subjects have been discreet, controlled and usually restricted to her annual Christmas message, where she has, it is true, shared some of her concerns, but not her innermost feelings. The nearest she got to this was in 1992 when she admitted it was “not a year on which I shall look back with undiluted pleasure. In the words of one of my more sympathetic correspondents, it has turned out to be an Annus Horribilis.” And yet, as we could see from the Jubilee celebrations, her reclusive approach has not dented her popularity. In many ways her appeal and mystique are a function of her limited appearances.
But is this an approach we PR practitioners would recommend to our clients? Is there a time when it is right to keep ‘mum’ and not tell anyone anything? The answer is yes, sometimes we will advise our clients not to comment, not to add to the debate unless directly asked.
Sometimes there are legal reasons where you cannot comment, for example if there is a criminal enquiry being carried out by the police. But often it is that an interjection may add information that leads to further and unwanted enquiries. It is often difficult to keep quiet, you may want to defend yourself and present your side of the story, but in a ‘tense’ situation you have to check and see if that story holds up to further scrutiny from the media.
It is difficult to keep quiet. In a vacuum of information, journalists will go to other sources such as your competition, for the story. And nine times out of ten, it will be right to be in control of your communication and make a comment. But that ‘one’ time it may be crucial for your reputation not to say anything, to wait, observe, check the facts and stay ‘mum’.