Saying “no” to being a “Yes Man”

Where there is another day, there will be another corporate, political or celebrity scandal.  Eliot Spitzer and Kwamee Kilpatrick are certainly bearing the grunt this week, but there are bound to be others.  This much I know. 

How is it that there are so many people who are talented, motivated and successful that fail in the good decision-making category?  I think a lot of it has to do with people being surrounded by people that don’t provide good counsel – being surrounded by “yes men,” who are – by definition – afraid to tell the truth, afraid to express their opinions and maybe even afraid if they don’t always agree with their boss, then they will be out of a job.

I can’t say that I’ve never been a “yes person.”  I was. (Especially when I was younger and not exactly confident in myself as a public relations professional.)  However, I have definitely learned the importance of being a good advisor. 

And, if I ever were a PR consultant to the stars, I certainly hope I would have never said these sentences, just so I could keep my job, all while losing my dignity:

Yes Britney, I think it’s definitely a good idea for you to shave your head and then go out tonight and drink, even though you have been ordered – by a court – not to, and there will be photogs at the club to snap your every move.

Or

Yes Mariah, I think the screenplay to “Glitter” is entertaining, intriguing and will translate into a phenomenal movie! Go for it, girl!

But the fact is, it’s hard to hear the truth sometimes, and it’s hard to tell the truth sometimes…and not everyone wants to hear it and I know that. 

That’s why I want to work with clients that have a serious passion for what they do and that are interested in cultivating a professional relationship so we can, together, reach their communications goals.  I don’t want to promise the moon but I also don’t want to underpromise and overdeliver.  I want to have an ongoing dialogue about the possibilities of implementing a good public relations program.  I don’t want to just say “yes” and walk away thinking I could have done or said something to manage expectations or been perfectly clear about the potential success of a plan.

I also recognize the importance for ME to have honest and thoughtful people in my professional and personal circle.  I need supportive and truthful people around me, as well. 

Do you have a story to share?  Send me your thoughts! 

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3 Comments

  1. As a former colleague used to always say, do everything in your power to resist thinking like a client. They pay us to secure coverage, so the more we can think like reporters and pitch stories the press can use, the more profitable and happy we’ll ALL be in the end.

  2. One of the problems is that celebrities don’t talk to their PR people before they engage in foolish or dangerous actions. I am sure they are surrounded by syncophants and yes people who rely on them for their incomes. Perhaps PR people are like accountants or lawyers. They offer good advice when asked.

  3. That’s a great point, Elaine. Maybe we need to be a little more forceful in inserting our good counsel. Of course, as with anything, only those who truly want to listen will hear good advice. In the end, people are left to their own devices and judgements – no PR person could’ve stopped the Elliot Spitzer trainwreck – he did that damage all by himself.


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