When silence is better than ‘transparency' in communications - Dooley PR

Knowledge can be a terrible thing… especially when what you know is horrible or salacious or illegal.

Since people are social animals, our baser instinct is often to spill the beans and tell all about what we know. As a public relations consultant, I am often called on to tell my clients to say nothing.

A perfect case in point was in the Saturday Winnipeg Free Press when Gordon Sinclair Jr. took a young woman’s story of her affair with her boss and turned it into a sermon on transparency in communications. Mr. Sinclair may be many things, but as a PR consultant he would fail miserably.

When you consider whether you should come forward and divulge your secrets to the rest of the world, you should ask yourself a few questions. First and most important are the twin-headed dragons of: what is the potential upside and downside of coming forward? If the only upside is to get some revenge, then zip up. That is made only truer when the potential downside is to turn a private embarrassment into a public humiliation.

Other questions to ask: is it likely that your story will come out on its own? Could a reporter reasonably sniff it out and get independent confirmations without your help? More often than not, the news never gets out. It can even go to court where all the details will be placed on the public docket, and chances are still fair that it won’t be reported in the newspaper. In Manitoba at least, there are too few reporters who can chase only so many stories.

The reality is that scandals are constantly occurring in businesses, charities and private homes all over this city. Most of them remain secrets. When it comes to malfeasance or criminality, that’s a shame. When it comes to private matters, it’s a good thing. Because contrary to what reporters and columnists tend to think and say, it is RARELY in your best interest to go public.

I feel badly for the young woman involved here. I know her. She’s a good person. She made a mistake in her private life and has now amplified it. I suspect (though I don’t know) that her decision to come forward was made in a cloud of emotion. It’s at times like those – when you’re too close to your terrible secret – that you should seek professional advice.

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