InsightsPOSTED March 31, 2015

Don’t be afraid to say no

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For March, the APEX team is exploring the best communication advice ever.

When I first started out in PR, I was fortunate enough to be surrounded by a group of friends who were also embarking on this dynamic, fast paced (and often crazy!) career path.

As we all navigated the choppy and unpredictable waters of PR, we exchanged tips and best practices to help better each other.

After a few get-togethers we all noticed a pattern in our behaviour while at work. When tasked with something, our answer was always an unequivocal, YES. We had all somehow become experts in agreeing to everything, while the word no was virtually extinct from our vocabulary.

It quickly became apparent that our yes-saying robot personas were in fact doing us more harm than good.

The best piece of advice we encouraged each other with was to not be afraid to say no. Seems easy enough, right?


Still, the word NO can be very powerful in communications. In PR (especially in an agency setting), we’re all guilty of saying yes even before we hear the full ask, only to be left trying to move mountains.

While it’s much easier to not rock the boat and just say yes, saying no provides us with the ability to follow our instincts – an invaluable trait in PR.

While we’ll stop at nothing (and I do mean nothing) to get the job done, sometimes what the job needs is a no.

No, we shouldn’t do that because it won’t get us the best ROI.

No, that strategy or positioning ultimately won’t move the needle.

And no, that is not within budget, no matter how we slice and dice it.

It’s our responsibility to counsel and be the expert, which often means providing the truth and not the answer the person is looking for.

But most importantly, saying no allows us to do our job and provide the best counsel to our clients. Isn’t that what they hired us to do in the first place?

Susie Nick is a senior consultant at APEX. What communication advice do you have? Let us know here or on Twitter. Also check out what others said.

One Response to “Don’t be afraid to say no”

By Simone Khan - 1 April 2015 Reply

Hi Susie,

I think you’ve got a valuable point. We should say no to a client when needed and give our opinion as PR professionals. After all, clients hire PR professionals to ensure their product, brand or service is generating the results they expect.

By saying no and stating your reasoning lets the client see what a real professional you are, and they are counting on that.

Great advice!

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