If you don’t have anything worth saying, don’t say anything at all.
As PR professionals, we often laud the value of thought leadership as an effective communication and expert positioning strategy. Amplify your voice, share your ideas, build clout for your organization in the process. In general terms, there is both opportunity and need for expert voices on a variety of topics, and sharing advice is, for the most part, beneficial for increasing visibility of your expertise and building trust with your audiences. Except when it isn’t.
2020 has shown us, in very stark terms, that there is a time and place to share our expertise or opinon, and a time and place to remain quiet and listen instead. When the national or even international dialogue becomes hyper-focused on a particular topic, be it a pandemic, or social justice issue, many of us instinctively want to jump in and share our two cents. After all, we are accustomed to sharing our ideas, why remain silent now? But how does the specific issue relate to our industry or line of work? What are the effects of the current climate for our clients and partners? And while sometimes our point of view can hold value, we must step back and ask ourselves – are we really adding value to the conversation or are we just creating unnecessary noise?
Jimmy Fallon recently created a hilarious parody sketch to exemplify this point – if you need a good laugh, it is certainly worth a watch. Though many of us want to jump in and share our ideas, are we just creating extraneous chatter and drowning out the voices that really need to be heard? Are our good intentions resulting in unintended negative consequences?
Instead, we must take time to listen first, and only jump into the dialogue when there is a demonstrated need for our opinions. This point is exemplified with the “Blackout Tuesday” campaign that filled our collective Instagram feeds earlier this summer. Though everyone and their well-meaning brothers jumped onboard and posted black squares, the original intent of the campaign was lost and the broad-scope of participation succeeded mostly in creating ire and frustration amongst organizers of the #BlackLivesMatter movement as it successfully drowned out the voices of those seeking to share real information. Though those who participated meant to show their solidarity for the BLM movement, posting a black square with no information, no follow-up, and no other action, succeeded in creating visual noise and little real value.
So when do we share our thoughts and when do we remain silent? Sometimes the answer is obvious. If you are an epidemiologist, we want to hear from you during a pandemic. If you aren’t, then think twice before you talk.
If you’re chomping at the bit to inject yourself into the conversation, here are some questions to consider before jumping into the ring:
- Do you really have anything of value to add to the conversation?
- Do you have a unique point of view? Are you saying something that hasn’t already been said before?
- Is your opinion going to drive positive change relative to the issue at hand?
- Will your thoughts provide value for your constituents that they can’t/won’t find anywhere else?
Before you share your thoughts with the world, ask these questions of yourself. Perhaps you will come to the conclusion that you really do have something important to say, and by all means, you should say it. But if you don’t, then take time to be mindful and listen instead to those who deserve to have the literal or proverbial stage. Your stakeholders will look forward to hearing from you on other topics at other times, there is no need for FOMO now.