Case studies

What is HOT Communication?

By Kaleigh Duff on March 11, 2024

Share this article:

The gates at Buckingham Palace at sunset.

One of the first concepts I remember learning while enrolling in my post-secondary PR program was never to lie. That same introductory course instilled in me the essential basic information about PR that I would build on as I learned. However, the continuous reiteration of staying truthful as a PR professional would always present itself in every case study, lesson, or assignment we took part in. Lying is not an option. 

Recently, I read an article in the Toronto Star about the importance of HOT communication. Buckingham Palace, the Royal residence of British Monarch King Charles III, is notorious for disregarding their loyal subjects’ right to know. The opinion article went on to discuss the recent vague announcement of the King’s “form of cancer” diagnosis while stating that the public should be informed with more than the Palace is willing to confirm. The ‘HOT’ acronym stands for honest, open, and transparent, three pillars all communicators should value and incorporate into all they do and create. While the Royals may never adopt HOT communication, here’s why you should:

This society is no stranger to a lack of transparency in public figures. YouTubers post their ‘apology’ videos riddled with deflections and unwillingness to take responsibility; politicians lie through their teeth and seldom address public outrage for their blatant lies. And, of course, the blockbuster actor of the week insists that the paparazzi’s photo of him stepping out on his spouse is photoshopped. I’m sure that those scenarios gave you the ick, too. The only thing more embarrassing than getting caught in a lie is running from and covering up the lie. If you’re anything like me, while reading the latest scandal or withholding information, I usually think about how I would have handled the situation. While HOT communication does not and should not absolve a guilty party, the backlash received will differ immensely based on how the situation is dealt with. Let’s break down each element of being HOT…

Honest

Honesty is the best policy. Valuing honesty isn’t just an important trait for those who are famous, though. Whether you’re a figure in the spotlight who needs to address the public or dissolve an issue with a family member, being honest and telling the truth is the commendable and correct way to address previous dishonesty issues. If you wish to be respected by those around you (and, more importantly, liked), it is important to practice honesty. Even if it makes you look terrible. Own your mistakes, and sustain the humiliation. Remember, the truth might warrant some bad publicity and will likely be embarrassing. However, the unfathomable shame you will feel while removing your mask of deception and facing the music as a publicly proclaimed liar will be much worse. 

Open

Being open to accepting responsibility and discussing wrongdoings with those you’ve upset is a skill. Incorporating openness with honesty and transparency leaves no room for misunderstanding, which can assist with diffusing bad press. It allows for constructive feedback from the public, and it does not shield the guilty behind ambiguity. Openness will offer your audience a wide range of options when processing the circumstances. When you are open from the get-go, you actively prevent scandals and predicaments from transforming, making it an essential value to incorporate into your communication tactics. 

Transparent

If you don’t have anything to hide, act like it. When you are in hot water or need to make an announcement, you should fully expect the public to request transparency. Returning to the article I had read, the entire reason that people are frustrated with Buckingham Palace’s cryptic messaging, is because it lacks transparency. The public appreciates being in the know, with raw and genuine communication. Even though these desires go against everything Royal protocol permits, it’s the reason people are frustrated with their breadcrumbs of information. Many believe the Royals owe their subjects an explanation, even if that explanation induces panic. To avoid making your audience even more angry, transparency, within reason, is necessary when addressing the public for any reason.

Even though the situation that Buckingham Palace has brought on itself isn’t necessarily a scandal, it’s a unique reason that displays why HOT communication is important in a less negative instance. Even if you aren’t in trouble with the public, haven’t offended a large group, or have committed a crime, prioritizing HOT communication in your professional and personal life will almost always help you survive even the harshest effects of cancel culture. With that being said… don’t think you’re untouchable. Everyone, including the greatest people in the world, makes undesirable mistakes, but that doesn’t mean you should act carelessly with the assumption that being HOT will protect you. Remember, HOTness doesn’t absolve your wrongdoings.

You may distract the world with your looks or run with a web of lies and a closet full of skeletons… but none of those tactics will work forever. The deceptors don’t realize that being HOT is a skill you’ll have for a lifetime…

Check out Brad Ross’s Toronto Star article that inspired this story.

You may also enjoy...

Read more great articles like this, or return to the main articles page…

All Articles

The Road to Securing a PR Internship

By Meagan Poole on March 18, 2024

I’m at that point now in my program. That terrifying point where I’m looking for my PR internship. One of the last steps of my PR & Strategic Communications education…

The Road to Securing a PR Internship - Read Post
A university-aged man smiles with laptop in his hands as he's standing in hallway with other individuals.

Mental Health and PR: My journey

By Matisse Hamel-Nelis on July 3, 2023

Why, hello there! Allow me to introduce myself formally. I’m Matisse Hamel-Nelis, the founder and podcast host of PR & Lattes, and I live with Bipolar Type 2 and Borderline Personality…

Mental Health and PR: My journey - Read Post
Headshot of Matisse Hamel-Nelis sitting on a grey sofa while wearing a black dress.

The Importance of Storytelling in PR: Branding to Bonding

By Meagan Poole on August 21, 2023

Effective Storytelling As the PR world advances, compelling storytelling remains one of the most powerful tools to connect with an audience. Brands must connect with their target audiences for financial…

The Importance of Storytelling in PR: Branding to Bonding - Read Post
A woman holds her smartphone as ads and videos flow out of it.