A public relations mentor of mine spent many years hammering home a philosophy that he lived by not only professionally, but personally: the THINK principle, which serves as a series of governing rules for communication.
Public relations professionals are trained communications experts often sought after to convey information with clarity, but when I first heard this philosophy, I found it rather perplexing. Is it really possible to hold to these principles with each sentence we utter? It seems like an awful lot to consider. The THINK philosophy is outlined as follows:
Is it true? Is the information you are conveying (whether verbally or in writing) true? If you are unable to deliver the truth, don’t say anything at all.
Is it helpful? Is what you are conveying helpful to both your client and the audiences you are addressing? Does it deliver knowledge, fact or beneficial information?
Is it inspirational? Does the information inspire either a move to action or a positive emotional impulse?
Is it necessary? Is the information you wish to convey necessary to another person’s understanding or to the final outcome for your client?
Is it kind? The most bizarre element of the principle (to me) is the word “kind,” as in “friendly” or “polite.”
It seemed important to consider these steps in a case study scenario in order to better understand them. Placing myself, a young public relations professional, as the lead spokesperson for a consumer-facing company with a product reach to millions of households nationwide, I set to determining how the THINK principle would guide my actions.
Considering multiple scenarios, it seemed relatively easy to deliver information to key audiences in a polite, educational, helpful and truthful manner that inspires consumers to make a purchase, especially when conveying details about new products, for example.
The challenge came when considering negatively charged situations such as a product manufacturing crisis, disagreement with the board or stakeholders or even a situation like a disgruntled former employee bringing legal charges.
As it turned out, the THINK principle proved to be the most adept and appropriate approach in each scenario. Public relations ethics guide us to be honest, direct and efficient, but when the heat is on, some individuals would rather lie, redirect or avoid the situation altogether. This strategy only leads to greater discord, so the “T” component is certainly the best route. By uncovering the truth and sharing it, you automatically deliver information that is both necessary and helpful. Delivering it efficiently, broadly, honestly and expeditiously could even be considered polite. When accepting responsibility for an error, omission or mistake (a courageous and much-needed course of action), some may view it as inspirational.
From the vantage point of a professional communicator, THINK has proven to be a sound strategy both in positive situations and in times of potential crisis. It is possible that if everyone used the THINK principle more regularly, we could all but eliminate most day-to-day miscommunications.
No matter your message, make sure your spokesperson and PR team have a thorough understanding of the THINK philosophy so that nothing gets lost to miscommunication. To learn more about what PR can do for your organization, join Axia Public Relations’ founder, Jason Mudd, for a Q&A webinar in which he addresses numerous PR questions and concerns.
Wendy Bulawa Agudelo has more than 15 years of experience in technology, business, consumer and non-profit public relations. In addition to serving on the Massachusetts Down Syndrome Congress PR Task Force, Wendy enjoys cooking and rooting for her favorite New England sports teams.
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