Careless Talk Costs

Harry Styles

Well she might be excused if it were her plan, after all she was, she says, a publicist (of some repute, no less) but I wonder if she realised that all the passengers of Coach C of the Plymouth to London Paddington were hanging onto every word she bellowed out.  Now I’m also not a One Directioner (no honestly, I’m not) but the news flash that Harry Styles could be playing a part in a certain film was of moderate interest. How, I wondered, would the wider world react and, more importantly, what would they do with that information….

Premature Communication

Whether intended or not, we are often all guilty of being too relaxed with letting the cat out the bag.

Cat

The ubiquitous mobile phone, in particular, tempts us, even provokes us, to engage mouth without engaging brain.  How often have you overheard indiscrete snippets that could be useful to someone?  Regardless of whether they are 1. of any value  or 2. received by someone who could do anything with it, there are other unintended outcomes of broadcasting beyond the intended audience.

And it’s not just conversations, a wider and more effective distribution of mission critical intelligence can be released through a plethora of media.  Whether tweets that were meant to be direct messages, unfortunate statuses on Facebook, misguided snapchat pictures, global emails - there have never been more opportunities to cock-up on the comms front.

So what’s wrong, pussy cat?

The following 5 impacts can be avoided if you are more clandestine in your communication.

1  Personal Brand

Whatever your business (even a publicist!) being seen to be indiscrete is a bad thing.  The observer will wonder whether they can trust you with information or whether you will jetison it to all and sundry.  If you want to be viewed as professional, reliable and trustworthy (pre-requisites to being hired, promoted or engaged) then restrain the urge to blabber openly

2  Gossip

Informal chats around the water cooler are an essential part of the cultural glue of any organisation, however it would be great if they were based on reality, not half-truths and acquired fag-ends. An unfortunate aspect of being human is we love to make people happy and what better way than to  amuse them with speculation and tittle tattle – and the better the gossip, the quicker it spreads.

Gossip

3  Market Intelligence

In a previous life, my team were especially atuned to listening out for market intelligence that would give us a healthy advantage. Even tiny snippets that helped us target weak points of the opposition organisations would be analysed forensically and then used actively. So unless you really have to prioritise speed against the risks of interception, wait until you are not broadcasting to the nation.

4  Message received

Regardless of whether you are communicating to a customer, a colleague or a supplier, they will infer something from where they hear you speaking.  If you knew that your boss was having a private conversation to you “in camera” of a wider audience, who else might they be talking to?  Private conversations should be held, well, in private.

5  Diluting the message

A mismanaged comms approach which results in leaks and gossip will have much less impact than a well-executed planned approach.  On the back of less, stock markets have fallen, mergers have faltered and staff have lost their jobs. If you don’t believe me, ask Gerald Ratner….

So what to do?

If you and your organization want to project a professional image, try this beguilingly simple 3 point approach: 

  1. Zip it. Keep schtum. Be sneaky beaky.
  2. Plan your proactive communication activity meticulously so that you can maximise the impact.
  3. Be clear with your team that careless talk costs, it really does….

Chris Lorimer is a Non-Executive Director of Crisp Professional Development, which trains companies of all sizes to communicate effectively. He lives in Devon, UK.

Other media