I attended (virtually, of course) a terrific session presented by the PRSA Tampa Bay Chapter on the topic of diversity and inclusion. Lively discussion among the attendees with some valid and valuable observations by all.
The guest speaker referenced an acronym that she had heard herself in an earlier seminar…W.A.I.T.
My ears immediately perked up when she explained what the letters stood for: Why Am I Talking? Or, conversely, Why Aren’t I Talking?
I had a flashback to the rambling discussions I’ve been having of late with my University of Tampa students in my “Introduction to Public Relations” and “Media Ethics” classes about the role that the public relations professional plays (or should play) in an organization’s communications with its publics, both external and internal.
Yes, as I say time and again, “You must be prepared with your company’s or your client’s response to various situations.” But there is a second and equally important part to this that your publics need to understand: “Why are you saying what you’re saying?”
So often, organizations issue “statements” about this, that or the other situation or event. And those folks on the receiving end are sitting there scratching their heads and asking, “Huh?”
We’re seeing a lot of this these days especially in situations relating to the ongoing coronavirus debacle. Different people in different positions of authority or responsibility are firing off pronouncements that leave their target audiences, at best, baffled…worst case scenario, angry.
“WHY am I getting conflicting messages from these people who are supposed to be ‘experts’ in their fields?”
“HOW am I, a trusting soul, supposed to know what I should do if ‘XYZ’ happens to me or my family?”
The fault/blame/responsibility for this confusion, unfortunately, usually falls on the shoulders of the hapless PR representative whose advice was (best case scenario) solicited or (worst case scenario) pretty much ignored in the whole process.
Turning back to the original thought in this, just like I/you/we learned when first venturing out on the street by ourselves and coming to an intersection, “Stop. Look. Listen.” Before firing off your well-meaning statement to those publics who depend on you for information and guidance, whisper this to yourself: “WAIT…Why Am I Talking?”
When you can answer this question clearly and simply, do what you’ve trained so hard to do…inform your trusting and dependent publics in a way that answers their questions without causing confusion or uncertainty or…worse…fear.