PR Statements: The Art of Saying Nothing
I felt the need to write this article, because it has become more apparent to me that is how large companies now deal with any kind of criticism. Whenever shady business practices or bad working conditions are brought up, not too much time passes until some kind of cookie-cutter PR statement is released. It almost always prefaces by saying that x is very important to them.
Here's what I noticed about most PR statements:
- They do not tackle any of the concrete criticism against the company.
- The statement says one thing, the actions they've taken up until the criticism usually speak a different story.
- They never promise anything specific that they can be held accountable by.
I want to take one PR statement for this example, the full statement can be found on this Kotaku article regarding the development of Black Ops 4.
Here's the first paragraph:
The first and most important statement that we want to make to the team is that, as managers of this studio, we take the well-being of every single individual working here very seriously.
Ah, what a surprise. They emphasize that it's very important to them. The article by Jason Schreier does tell a slightly different story.
Let's take a look at the next paragraph.
We have a vision for the future of this studio that includes significant improvements to work/life balance, and we plan to achieve that through better project planning, streamlined production processes, and rigorous decision-making timelines. It is also our intention to maintain our commitment to increased transparency.
Well that's all very vague. How would better project planning solve bad working conditions? No, one start would be a commitment to reduce working hours - for example by setting an upper limit. That's a concrete action, it would probably help tremendously and it's something that they can be held accountable by. It's unfortunate that the government doesn't regulate this much more, because the company doesn't seem to care either.
Getting there will require time, hard work, and commitment — most of all, it will require open communication.
I like that in the previous paragraph they emphasize their commitment to improve work/life balance and in this one they state hard work will be required to get there.
If you ever feel like your needs aren’t being met, please do not hesitate to communicate actively with your manager. No one should ever feel like they don’t have options, can’t talk openly, or that the only choice is to take their concerns to the public. These conversations should always start with an honest dialogue with your department manager, and if that’s not working, feel free to reach out to one of us.
I think it should be fairly obvious, but I suspect those employees want to risk losing their job. This paragraph reads more like "Please don't go to the public and complain about us!".
And that's how to write a bullshit PR statement! Hollow words. It's likely that nothing will change.