By David E. Johnson, CEO, Strategic Vision, LLC
Calvin Coolidge once famously said that nothing improved upon silence. Many in today’s world of social media and the 24/7 news cycle would disagree with that assessment. They would claim that you will lose a news cycle and lose in the court of public opinion if you don’t respond to critics and attacks right away. Yet the recent controversy over actress and comedian, Leah Remini’s new book, Troublemaker that attacks the world of Scientology and one of it’s leading figures, Tom Cruise is a perfect example of why silence is sometimes the best media strategy.
Remini penned the bombshell revelations about Scientology after leaving the church that she had been a member of for 30 years. The book is the hardest hitting expose of the church to have come out and the media has been abuzz about it. Remini has been doing interview after interview and has dominated media attention. The book takes particular aim at Tom Cruise, the church’s golden boy and one of Hollywood’s leading male actors. Remini in her book describes Cruise as a big child in many ways and as disliking other prominent Scientologists including John Travolta and Kirstie Alley. Watching Remini in her interviews, one would almost expect that she has a second book in the works dealing with just Tom Cruise.
Many had expected that Cruise would lash out at Remini in interviews and through statements. Some predicted that he would go nuclear against her in his response. The tabloids have been waiting with hopes of this happening. Yet Cruise has been quiet and that is a brilliant strategy.
Cruise, one of Hollywood’s top actors also has a reputation of being one of its most difficult and bizarre. His relationships, marriages, and divorces have been what tabloids dream about and are guaranteed to sell copies. And of course there was his infamous scene on the Oprah Winfrey Show when he seemed to go crazy jumping the couch. To many people he seems weird. That is why everyone has been waiting for him to erupt.
Yet his silence is a brilliant strategy. By not responding to Remini, he is not giving the media the fodder to keep the story alive. Responding to her would only allow the media to bring up every story about Cruise and his ‘erratic’ behavior and keep it fresh in the public’s mind. A response would reinforce the weird ness factor that many have come to associate with Cruise. Instead by not responding the story is dying. The media is beginning to move on from her book to other news and there are no new negative stories about Cruise emerging. Rather than respond and keep Remini and her allegations about Cruise alive for several news cycles, his silence has limited the coverage she has obtained and allowed him to go largely unscathed. Many brands and fellow celebrities can learn from this when next they face a crisis.
This isn’t the first time that Cruise has employed silence as a public relations strategy. He did the same during his divorce from Katie Holmes. Cruise can teach many in crisis communications on when silence can be golden.
About the Author: David E. Johnson is the CEO of Strategic Vision, LLC, a public relations and branding agency that specializes in crisis communications, branding, and media relations. Additional information on Johnson and Strategic Vision, LLC may be obtained at www.strategicvision.biz