When to say yes, whether to say no and how to change the conversation

I’m sure lawyers don’t have to put up with this: non-lawyers writing legal advice and expecting it to be taken seriously. “I knocked this together over the weekend, what do you think?”

Er. No.

Certainly medics are getting a bit of it, sometimes having to compete with Dr. Google on the “I must have this – I saw it on the internet” approach to health.

But comms. Well, everybody’s a comms expert. And, if they’ve watched more than an episode of The West Wing, they’re both strategic and tactical geniuses.

Er. No.

That’s just one of the challenges we face as comms practitioners. People don’t just want advice, they want us to do this thing, no matter what it is. And fear of not appearing helpful or useful can lead us to getting on with it and keeping the customer happy.

Except happiness is not always what it’s about. The key quality comms people can bring to the table is challenge – strategic and tactical – asking uncomfortable questions, challenging preconceptions, looking for evidence, understanding motives and examining capacity to deliver. And all of those things can vanish in an instant if you can’t manage the conversation and navigate your way onto useful territory.

It can be hard to learn these skills. Failure is a great teacher. But with increasing pressures on reducing budgets there may be less latitude for this than there might once have been.

Hence this workshop at the 2019 LGComms Academy.

We’ll be exploring relationship dynamics in fast-moving high expectation organisations and helping you find your own answer to the question in the title.

It’s good to learn from our mistakes. But sometimes, when time is tight, it’s better to either learn from others’ or to try approaches out in private before going public.

Mark Fletcher-Brown is a director of Reputation Counsel. His communication masterclasses are available at


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