Doctor SpinCreativityStorytelling & WritingHow to Use the Grown-Up Tonality for Better PR Results

How to Use the Grown-Up Tonality for Better PR Results

tl;dr: If you get a tough question, tell the truth respectfully.

In PR, what’s the Grown-Up Tonality?

When I help companies reply to social activists, I often recommend using the Grown-Up Tonality.

The purpose of the Grown-Up Tonality is to allow your Community Managers to respond more freely on social media — without getting themselves too entangled in agenda-driven political discussions.

Here’s how it works:

Table of Contents

    The Grown-Up Tonality

    The Grown-Up Tonality

    An organisation is the total sum of all its coworkers. Imagine taking the most mature traits from each one and combining them into one voice — the Grown-Up Tonality. How would a grown-up reply to a challenging question?

    • Listening. A grown-up understands that everyone must be allowed to express their thoughts and opinions.
    • Balance. A grown-up can see (and respect) both sides of a divisive question.
    • Integrity. A grown-up is confident in their chosen strategies and acquired abilities, not because they’re perfect, but because they are grounded in their actions.
    • Extrapolation. A grown-up will take their time to explain (and appreciate) complex situations without resorting to over-simplification.
    • Humility. A grown-up is comfortable with the fact that no one can have everything completely figured out and that we all have some learning and growing to do.

      Learn more about The Grown-Up Tonality.

    Grown-Up Tonality Examples

    “Why doesn’t your brand speak out against industrial overfishing killing our oceans?”

    “As a company that sells fishing gear, we want our oceans — and all animals and plants living in them! — to be healthy and plentiful. We too were disturbed by the recent news that you’re referring to. How could anyone not be? So, how can our company make more of a difference? Honestly, we’re discussing our strategy for sustainability every day. I cannot say how or when we might take action regarding this latest news specifically, but rest assured that we’re taking the general issue of saving our oceans seriously.”

    “Why doesn’t your brand come out more clearly supporting Black Lives Matter?”

    “As for right now, we’re listening. We’re listening to the stories being told. We’re listening to better understand how we can learn and grow as a company. As for inclusiveness and human rights in general, we think that we’re doing a great job, but we also believe that it’s equally important to continuously evolve as a company.”

    “Why doesn’t your brand join our protests against toxic masculinity and the patriarchy?”

    “Honestly, we’re a product company. We make products for anyone who likes them. And I dare say that we’re experts in making these products. However, we’re not experts on ideologies or societal structures. So, for now, we listen. And we continue to focus on making the best products that we can. For everyone. We believe that’s our best way of contributing at this point.”

    “Why doesn’t your brand sign our petition to boycott all companies on our Environmental Black List?”

    “As a company, we operate differently. Instead of signing petitions or participating in other public demonstrations, we take action within our sphere of influence. And I dare say that our many environmental initiatives are making a lot of difference around the world relative to our size and reach. If we were to sign your petition, we would first have to use our resources to research the legitimacy of its creators and then make sure that none of the companies on that list is being wrongfully accused. While it would be possible, we’ve decided that we can do more good by directing our resources to where we can make the most difference.”

    “Why doesn’t your company act against your female employees who take time off for abortions?”

    “All our employees are grown-ups and what they do on their own time is frankly none of our business. We’re a large company and we have employees that are pro-life and we have employees that are pro-choice. We believe that we have a workplace where people can have different opinions but still respect each other and work well together.”

    “Why hasn’t your company offered your thoughts and prayers for the victims and their families of the school shooting?”

    “The victims and their families have our empathies, of course. I think that I speak for everyone working at our company when I say we were as devastated by the news as everyone else. But you’re right that we haven’t posted any status updates about the shooting here on our Facebook page. It’s not that we don’t care (we do!), it’s just that we try to focus our updates on our products and services and how they make positive a difference in the world.”

    Frequently Asked Questions

    Cover photo by Jerry Silfwer (Prints/Instagram)


    Jerry Silfwer
    Jerry Silfwer
    Jerry Silfwer, aka Doctor Spin, is an awarded senior adviser specialising in public relations and digital strategy. Currently CEO at KIX Index and Spin Factory. Before that, he worked at Kaufmann, Whispr Group, Springtime PR, and Spotlight PR. Based in Stockholm, Sweden.
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    In 1996, Nick Cave submitted a petition to the MTV Video Music Awards demanding the video for his duet with Kylie Minogue be removed.
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