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The High Road Tonality: Don’t Be Pushed Around

When pushed into sensitive topics, take the high road.

Cover photo: @jerrysilfwer


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 we go:

The High Road Tonality

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The High Road Tonality

An organ­isa­tion is the poly­phon­ic 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 the time to explain com­plex top­ics without condescending.
  • Humility. A mature organ­isa­tion under­stands that no one can have everything com­pletely figured out and that we all have learn­ing and grow­ing to do.

Learn more: The High Road Tonality: Don’t Be Pushed Around

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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 under­stand bet­ter 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 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 world­wide 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.”

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Thanks for read­ing. Please sup­port my blog by shar­ing art­icles with oth­er com­mu­nic­a­tions and mar­ket­ing pro­fes­sion­als. You might also con­sider my PR ser­vices or speak­ing engage­ments.

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Jerry Silfwer
Jerry Silfwer
Jerry Silfwer, alias Doctor Spin, is an awarded senior adviser specialising in public relations and digital strategy. Currently CEO at Spin Factory and KIX Communication Index. Before that, he worked at Kaufmann, Whispr Group, Springtime PR, and Spotlight PR. Based in Stockholm, Sweden.

The Cover Photo

The cover photo isn't related to public relations; it's just a photo of mine. Think of it as a 'decorative diversion', a subtle reminder that there is more to life than strategic communication.

The cover photo has



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