It’s silly season – but for whom?

A chuckle resonated through western media in June when a Japanese water company issued a public apology to its customers when it was revealed that one of their employees, a 64 year old man, had periodically started his lunch break 3 minutes early for a “change of pace”, totalling 69 minutes over a period of 7 months. As punishment, the company docked the culprit half a day’s pay, apologising profusely for their employee’s “deeply regrettable” behaviour.

It is difficult to fathom what this Japanese company would make of work habits in the UK and Europe at the best of times, let alone during the summer months. The so-called ‘Silly Season’, occurring from July to August, marks a ‘shutdown’ for major industries – from parliament to education and some small businesses – as they close their doors to take a well-deserved break. Silly season is named after the emergence of frivolous stories in the media during the annual holiday time downing of tools. Even the notoriously frantic world occupied by bankers, lawyers and accountants sees the pace of business decelerate in holiday periods. Who can blame them? The health benefits reaped are undeniable: less time spent glued to a screen means more time spent on often-neglected leisurely pursuits, family and friends.

But what about the communications industry? Is it appropriate for PR professionals to be out-of-office during the summer and other holiday months? With PR being a notoriously difficult game of ‘getting there first’ and ‘controlling the message’ – probably not. The handling of any reputation is delicate and requires consistent attention to any reverberations in the mediasphere, to present an effective, sure-footed response.

During the silly season, otherwise innocuous stories can take on a life and longevity of their own. Just ask Boris Johnson. Though the audience may be somewhat diminished and those that remain somewhat distracted, nonetheless, for communications professionals at least, silly season rarely allows for taking your eye off the ball.

9 August 2018

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