A client made me nervous this week.
He has a somewhat controversial idea that is starting to get noticed in the media. He’s expecting a fair amount of push-back and he waved it off with, “any publicity is good publicity, right?” That’s what made me nervous.
He used to be right. As I’ve written here before, PT Barnum deliberately created controversy before his circus came to town as a way of getting the curious to buy tickets. And, of course, there’s that old phrase about bad news travelling faster than good news which may entice some to lead with the bad to get the message out.
As I told my client, though, it’s very important to be sure your messaging is sound before encouraging a public debate. Whenever possible, we test messages to make sure the audience understands what we are saying. We also try to be sure the messages address any concerns or fears the audience might have.
When it comes to people opposed to an idea or a project, we anticipate their objections and make sure we have robust and concise responses. We also make sure we are aware of all third parties that might be on our side or might speak out against us.
It’s possible to come out swinging on a controversial issue, as long as there has been enough background work and media training done to be prepared for any and all responses. Odds are, though, your communications people will still be a little nervous.