Just shy of his 80th birthday in February 2011, Hootie Johnson, former chairman of Bank of America and Augusta National Golf Club, spoke to THE (Columbia, SC) STATE newspaper.
He talked about his professional rise and his successes, but from a communications standpoint, one of his most interesting remarks came during a discussion of Augusta National's decision to remain a single-gender private club and the media attention that drew in the early 2000s.
If you don't remember, THE STATE recalls the situation as:
As chairman of Augusta National Golf Club, Johnson drew the most attention for declining attempts by a national women’s organization to admit women as members. Johnson was quoted as saying the club would not be forced to have a female member “at the point of a bayonet.” Critics decried Johnson as sexist, while supporters applauded him as protector of individual rights.
Mr. Johnson knew then and now that he and Augusta National received bad advice on how to handle the situation. When asked what happened to the communications consultant Augusta National used, Johnson replied, "Oh, we got rid of him, and then we just shut up."
It's a strategy that proved to be both simple and successful (and, much to the dismay of my fellow PR flacks, didn't require their services).
Yes. There are times when you need to be vocal. Sometimes it's necessary to play offense, and sometimes, it's necessary to play defense. There are other times when it's best to "just shut up."
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