your ‘cut out and keep' guide to saying NO to daft requests

No can be the hardest word. But often the kindest. Here's a cut and out and keep guide to saying no when you really do need to politely shake your head at someone you work with...

by Darren Caveney

There was once a time when many a Comms Team got a bad name for being control freaks who said no a lot. I’m glad we’ve largely moved on and become that listening, enabling service. We are gate-openers now, instead of gate-keepers, who regularly now say yes where perhaps we once said no.

But. There is still a place for ‘no’. Not least when it is a colleague asking for something daft.

And, let’s face it, we still receive quite a few silly requests (see the recent posts ‘comms room 101’ and ‘comms room 101 part 2’ for some recent evidence)

Sometimes it can be tricky saying no (and even trickier hiding your emotions/trying not to laugh)

So here is a short, handy 'cut out and keep' guide to saying no to daft request (and, by the way, all of these are real)

Hey, we need a new logo!

No, you almost certainly don’t. Unless you work in FMCG and are going to launch a completely new consumer product it’s almost always the case that your organisation’s existing logo will do just fine.

We’re going to an event and need some pens to take to attract people to our stand

No, you don’t. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t own a pen. Even my kids have sizeable collections. And unless they are made out of unicorn horn pens aren’t going to attract anyone to your stand. They would just leave people thinking that you had more money than sense. (Oh, actually, now you mention it… )

What we need is a comms plan…

We’ve been here before, haven’t we? Yes, you might do. But, equally, you might not. Tell us your idea/problem and we’ll try to advise you (see also ‘What we need is a comms plan’)

Do you have any mugs, umbrellas or ‘corporate giveaways’ we can have?

No. It isn’t 2001. We don’t buy any of that fluff anymore. Where have you been? (#publicmoney #transparency #austerity anyone?)

We need an app

No. You really don’t. Show me three apps from the public sector which have been successful, effective, useful and value for money?

We wanted your help with some comms – we have already got the marketing side of things sorted…

Your heart sinks, then you rally and say, “Oh, OK. What have you spent money on?” It’s rarely good news, something well thought-through, strategic, absolutely a fit with the objectives and target audience. The purchase is often sparked by a random cold call from a supplier to a non-comms department. Would you ever buy from a stranger cold calling at your home? No. Same applies here.

Usual suspects have been known to include bus back advertising and even exhibit A in the pic above – the ‘ghoulish’ monster bugs, sometimes referred to as bog-eyed furry gonks. I took a call from a supplier just last week asking if we were interested in this kind of tut. I remained calm, and politely said no. The follow-up question from the sales rep was “Why aren’t you interested?” Me: “Err, because there has never been a single piece of case study evidence to ever vindicate their procurement.” That ended the call.

Social media? Nah, it’s just for the kids, it’s still really niche isn’t it…

No. It’s been mainstream for some time now. In fact, Twitter and Facebook are now being referred to as ‘traditional social media’ they have been around so long. Over half of UK adults use social media.

And when Coca Cola fly all of their senior European comms executives to Barcelona for two days to ‘create a new social media strategy’ it points to social media being, well, a tad important.

We’ve organised a balloon release, could you help us promote it?

Absolutely not. First off, balloons are highly damaging to animals. Secondly it is corporate littering to drop rubbish from the skies. And, thirdly, it is naff 1990s PR puffery. Many local authorities have banned balloon releases by their service areas and good on them (if you want to know about the damage balloon releases cause do check out @pigsonthewing who has campaigned tirelessly on the subject for many years)

So, in short, tell these folks ‘No’ - to stop wasting public money on tut and ensure it is spent on something beneficial instead.

I’m sure you’ll have your own little nuggets of daftness to add to the pot – do please share them.

Darren Caveney is co-creator of comms2point0 and vice chair of LGcomms

Image and bug produced by ByeByeBirdie