The PR BlogCreativityStorytelling & WritingThe High Road Tonality: Don't Be Pushed Around

The High Road Tonality: Don’t Be Pushed Around

When pushed into sensitive topics, take the high road.

Cover photo by Jerry Silfwer (Instagram)

In PR, what’s the high toad tonality?

When I help companies reply to social activists, I often recommend using the high road tonality.

The high road tonality aims to allow your community managers to respond more freely on social media — without getting too entangled in agenda-driven and sensitive discussions.

Here’s how it works:

The High Road Tonality

The High Road Tonality

An organisation is the total sum of all its coworkers. Imagine taking the most mature traits from each coworker and combining them into one voice — the high road tonality.

  • Openness. A mature organisation understands that everyone must be allowed to express their thoughts and opinions.
  • Fairness. A mature organisation will see (and respect) both sides of a divisive argument.
  • Strength. A mature organisation is confident in its chosen strategies and acquired abilities, not because they’re perfect, but because they are grounded.
  • Wisdom. A mature organisation will take their time to explain complex topics without condescendence.
  • Humility. A mature organisation understands that no one can have everything completely figured out and that we all have learning and growing to do.

Read also: The High Road Tonality: Don’t Be Pushed Around

High Road 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 of overfishing. How could anyone not be? We now ask ourselves, 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 specific action regarding this latest news, but rest assured that we’re taking the general issue of saving our oceans seriously.”

“Why doesn’t your brand engage in 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 we’re doing a great job, and part of that is to stay open and carefully listen to people’s stories. We might take specific actions, but for now — we’re listening and learning.”

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

Frequently Asked Questions

Thank you for reading this article. Please consider supporting my work by sharing it with other PR- and communication professionals. For questions or PR support, contact me via [email protected].

Jerry Silfwer
Jerry Silfwer
Jerry Silfwer, alias 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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