Influence people

Monday, January 22, 2018

Is Silence Golden?


Under attack, corporations used to hunker down.

Herbert Schmertz changed that.

Schmertz, who died last week at 87, as head of PR at Mobil in the 1970s pioneered use of the "advertorial” to confront critics of the company.

He bought space on the op-ed page of major dailies like The New York Times and used it to publish essays expressing his company's viewpoint.

Many of his peers said Schmertz took unnecessary risks by combating critics. 

Critics, they insisted, are best ignored; eventually, they go away; and, in the meantime, media reporting of their positions can be influenced privately.

But is silence golden?

No company wants to go on record at the risk of losing business. A slip can tarnish a reputation in an instant; customers sympathetic with critics' views can be alienated; and arguing in public can make management look callous.

But the lessons of PR failures today are plentiful. They teach that “no comment,” while a company's knee-jerk response to critics, isn't always the safe course.

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