When it’s Time for Straight Talk

In a society where it is popular to give everyone a trophy, straight talk is not often welcomed nor appreciated. But, talking straight to your agency, employees or a client can help provide context, isolate the facts, prepare and respond/act appropriately – it can also save time, money and more. Delivering straight talk shows confidence and resolve, keeps communications on track, and demonstrates urgency and the serious nature of an issue.

Expecting someone to read between the lines often leaves room for interpretation – err misinterpretation – especially in a time-sensitive, crisis situation. Make it quick. Rip off the Band-Aid. Deliver the news clearly, concisely and with confidence to avoid leading a client or employee down the wrong – or less direct – path.

Roundabout: We want more news coverage that will differentiate us from our competition.

Straight: These three markets are our top priorities right now and we want to enhance our     business profile in those areas to attract new customers.

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    Roundabout: Please provide an answer at your convenience.

Straight: The reporter is on a tight deadline. If you’d like to be included in the story, please     provide a response by 3 p.m.

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    Roundabout: Don’t worry; everything will be fine.

Straight: The picketers are showing up in an hour. They will likely be featured on the evening     news, but you can help balance the story by providing management’s point of view.

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    Roundabout: The crisis coverage won’t last.

Straight: Because of the nature of this event and the implications for the industry, we expect     news coverage of this issue online, in print, TV and on radio. The typical life cycle of this type of     crisis is about 3 to 4 days if there is no new information. You’ll want to get the facts out soon and     be consistent.

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    Roundabout: It’s all good. This should blow over soon.

Straight: Based on our previous experience and the current climate, this situation will likely play     out over several weeks’ time and could negatively impact your stock prices/your brand.

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    Roundabout: Reminder: everyone needs to pay attention to detail.

Straight: (Pulling employee aside) Detail orientation is important and we have noticed your work     has typos. Here is a recent example. Please proof your work carefully before submitting for final     review.

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    Roundabout: You will be promoted soon, but now is just not the right time.

Straight: If you accomplish A, B and C, you will be promoted by Sept. 15.

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You know you’re a Straight Talker if you:

– Remind your listener that you are on their side and that you have their (their company’s) best       interests at heart.
– Present the facts in a straight forward manner that still shows tact.
– Outline potential risks/scenarios but also potential outcomes.
– Prepare for an initial defensive response, especially when delivering tough news.
– Come armed with answers, options and potential solutions.

You know you are not a Straight Talker if you:

– Sugar coat it. Always.
– Are candid but don’t have the substance to back it up.
– Ramble on and on and on and take five paragraphs (or five minutes) to get to the     point.
– Don’t tell the whole story.
– Come away from the conversation unsure of whether your listener understood you.

I’ll take straight talk any day … except, of course, if you tell me my new jeans make my butt look fat. Then you can sugar coat it.

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