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I read a story recently about a little ginger seal pup who was being shunned by its fellow colony members. Nature can be cruel…and so can the human race.

It reminded me about an old Scottish saying about “being the talk of the steamie” – a reference to the gossiping ladies who used to frequent the Glasgow public wash-houses in the ’40s discussing the antics of the local community.

Of course, it is easy to get paranoid about such matters when finding yourself the subject of any negative conversation but the PR industry has built an entire profession around telling tales. After all, well constructed story telling is central to the discipline all-be-it executed in a far more subtle manner, with precision words chosen with caution, and a small group entrusted to spread the word.

But what happens when somebody, or even the group selective group to broadcast the news, decides independently to tell a few tales without our knowledge or approval? The result? Negative media coverage.

Now, one thing is definitely true, all publicity is definitely NOT good publicity. The consequence of such an ‘uncontrolled’ situation is a potential PR crisis and, consequently, evasive action to minimise the effects a priority.

The power of the media, whether that be in the traditional or digital, is what all PR professionals attempt to take advantage of but taming such a mighty lion is an impossible task. Although a positive force does counteract a negative one under most circumstances, sometimes it is necessary to accept that a degree of damage to reputation is inevitable.

In the context of a corporate brand this damage is simply measured in monetary terms, but when an individual is concerned, the effects can be much more severe and considerably longer lasting.

This reminds me of another lovely Scottish saying from a poem that my Granny used to recite to me when I was just a wee lass:

“When you go through this life you’ll go very slow,
If you listen to everything that’s said as you go,
You’ll be fretted and worried and kept in a stew,
Because meddlesome tongues must find something to do,
And people will talk.”

Good advice for personal circumstances, no doubt, but in the world of PR it is important to listen to exactly what is said and to understand how far it has reached in order to evaluate the effects of the situation.

And with the purpose of PR aiming to get our message out to as many of our publics as possible, perhaps the only thing worse than being the talk of the steamie is not being talked about at all?

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2 Comments

  • And for anyone wanting the hear the rest of the poem, here it is….

    If threadbare your dress or old fashioned your hat,
    Someone is sure to take notice of that,
    And voice a broad hint you can’t pay your way,
    But don’t let it bother you whatever they say,
    ‘Cause people will talk.

    If you’re dressed in the fashion don’t think to escape
    They will criticize then in a different shape,
    You live beyond your means, your tailor’s bill is unpaid,
    But don’t let it bother you what ever is said,
    ‘Cause people will talk.

    So the best thing to do is to do as you please,
    ‘Cause your mind, if you have one, will then be at ease,
    ‘Cause people will talk!

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