James Hoggan on the Power of “Dread”

Here’s a new column in BC Business by James Hoggan on “How dread increases society’s perception of risk.” 

Jim writes that,

“The power of emotion is a critical consideration in risk communication. No matter how good you think your argument is in a time of crisis, regardless of how provable your facts, if the public feels its liberty or right to fair treatment or livelihood is in danger, you’re losing the battle to dread.”

You can read the entire article over on BC Business at: How dread increases society’s perception of risk, James Hoggan.

Hoggan PR Tip #26: Use the Language of Accountability

In a climate of mistrust, generalities are more likely to alienate than reassure your audience.

If you’re talking about something that people cannot measure or confirm, you’re probably saying something that they won’t believe. This is particularly the case for companies trying to communicate about sustainability.

To be credible, claims must be specific and measurable.

Generalities will only expose you to charges of hypocrisy, especially if it can be argued that another part of your operation is not currently run on a sustainable basis.

This is part of an ongoing series of practical public relations tips taken from Jim Hoggan’s book, Do the Right Thing: PR tips for a skeptical public.

See all the tips Jim has posted so far on this page here: Jim Hoggan’s PR Tips Series.

Hoggan PR Tip #25: Set the Record Straight

If your company’s spokesperson is misquoted or a news story contains serious errors, correct them.

Call or write the reporter directly.

Be courteous – don’t blame or scold – but be firm in asking for a correction, even if that means moving on to senior editors or producers with your complaint.

Also, ask that the Internet versions of the story be updated or removed. It is important to ensure the error does not pop up in future stories about your company. That said, don’t expect the correction to receive the same prominence as the original story. Except in the rarest of circumstances, they never will.

This is part of an ongoing series of practical public relations tips taken from Jim Hoggan’s book, Do the Right Thing: PR tips for a skeptical public.

See all the tips Jim has posted so far on this page here: Jim Hoggan’s PR Tips Series.

Hoggan PR Tip #24: Credibility Rests in Good Actions, Not Good PR

Mistrust is often the obstacle to successful corporate communications.

In an age of skepticism – it not outright cynicism – the public in inclined to dismiss corporate messaging as self-serving and therefore suspect.

Communicating in such an environment is 80 percent about what you do and 20 percent about what you say.

If, for example, you are trying to distinguish yours as a sustainable company, emphasize action and avoid inadvertantly overstating your sustainable commitments.

Focus your communications on specific business practices that others can measure and judge. Credibility will build slowly, but on a solid foundation.

This is part of an ongoing series of practical public relations tips taken from Jim Hoggan’s book, Do the Right Thing: PR tips for a skeptical public.

See all the tips Jim has posted so far on this page here: Jim Hoggan’s PR Tips Series.

Hoggan PR Tip #23: Keep Step with Time


When releasing news, it’s important to think about timing – to make sure that information and spokespeople are available when reporters need them, well before deadline.

This becomes complicated on national stories when you’re dealing with media in different time zones.

For example, while it’s tempting to give local reporters priority access for interviews, that could cost you coverage if you let West Coast media go first – causing Eastern reporters to blow their deadlines.

So, make a national plan, and if you have to, give priority to those whose timelines are tightest.

This is part of an ongoing series of practical public relations tips taken from Jim Hoggan’s book, Do the Right Thing: PR tips for a skeptical public.

See all the tips Jim has posted so far on this page here: Jim Hoggan’s PR Tips Series.

Hoggan PR Tip #22: Choose Hope, Not Hype

Good leaders inspire hope, not panic.

If you try to motivate your audience by fear or by threat, that audience will turn off.

This applies in all business settings, but it’s especially applicable when urging action on the environment. Bleak future scenarios engender paralysis. It’s also bad strategy to shame people – to embarrass them with their own contradictions.

If you point out that what people do doesn’t align with what they say, they are more likely to change their attitude than their actions.

People want and need encouragement.

This is part of an ongoing series of practical public relations tips taken from Jim Hoggan’s book, Do the Right Thing: PR tips for a skeptical public.

See all the tips Jim has posted so far on this page here: Jim Hoggan’s PR Tips Series.

PR Tip #21: Be Brief and Well-Rehearsed

Everyone appreciates brevity; no one ever complains if you take less time than you are given. Audiences also like a bit of polish – the clarify and familiarity you can only achieve if you are well prepared.

Practice.

Run through your presentation alone and, then again, with someone whose feedback you trust.

See if you can make your points in less time.

Some people find it helps to write out their whole presentation, even if they ultimately use a bullet-point reminder sheet. A prepared text helps you organize your thoughts and will prevent you rambling on unnecessarily.

This is part of an ongoing series of practical public relations tips taken from Jim Hoggan’s book, Do the Right Thing: PR tips for a skeptical public.

See all the tips Jim has posted so far on this page here: Jim Hoggan’s PR Tips Series.

PR Tip #20: Perception as Reality

In crisis, there is often a gap between public perception and operational reality. But if the public thinks you have a crisis, you have a crisis- no matter what your engineers say. And the larger the gap between what you know and what the public believes, the bigger the threat to your credibility.

Here is what you must do:

  • Identify why communication gaps exist (normal media skepticism, industry reputation, rumors).
  • Distribute information that addresses those gaps.
  • Recruit credible experts to confirm your facts.

Close the gap or the reputational crisis will long outlast the operational crisis.

This is part of an ongoing series of practical public relations tips taken from Jim Hoggan’s book, Do the Right Thing: PR tips for a skeptical public.

See all the tips Jim has posted so far on this page here: Jim Hoggan’s PR Tips Series.

PR Tip #19: Keep Employees in the Loop

One of a company’s most critical communication “targets” are its own employees.

By communicating openly and honestly with your employees, you ensure that these essential stakeholders understand the corporate mission.  By listening to their feedback, you make them feel they are part of the team. This level of communications is too important to be left to chance.

Standardize internal communications,  ensuring there is a regular cadence to it.  That will help make employees feel included and secure-  going a long way toward boosting morale and engendering employee support.

This is part of an ongoing series of practical public relations tips taken from Jim Hoggan’s book, Do the Right Thing: PR tips for a skeptical public.

See all the tips Jim has posted so far on this page here: Jim Hoggan’s PR Tips Series.

Hoggan PR Tip #18: Don’t Dignify Petty Criticisms


It’s tempting, when you are criticized in the media, to rise vigorously in your own defense.

But it’s often the wrong thing to do: You may unwittingly call attention to criticism that no one noticed, and you give your critic credibility by responding.

If someone says something that is damaging to your business or reputation, by all means respond. But if someone says something crticial, hurtful, or even untruthful, assess the damage.

If there isn’t any, seriously consider letting it pass.

This is part of an ongoing series of practical public relations tips taken from Jim Hoggan’s book, Do the Right Thing: PR tips for a skeptical public.

See all the tips Jim has posted so far on this page here: Jim Hoggan’s PR Tips Series.