Three Reasons To Say ‘No Thanks’ To A Speaking Request (Or, Why Your Boss Will Say ‘No’)

Everyone should know by now that before we accept speaking requests, we have to get OKs from our supervisors — who will consult with Talent Relations and Ethics. An email on the process went out on Aug. 4. If you need a copy, ask the Standards & Practices editor.

Why should you say “no thank you” to a request? Or, why might your boss say “no?”

These are three of the most common reasons:

- A government agency (foreign or domestic) is putting on the event or paying for it.

- An advocacy group or political organization is making the request.

- A company or organization that we cover wants you to speak.

There’s a common thread running through those examples: We must guard our independence.¬†We don’t work “with” or “for” governments, advocacy groups or the organizations we cover. We don’t want to even appear to be doing that.

Are there grey areas and cases where exceptions may be made? Of course. But the bars are set high. It might be OK, for example, to be on a panel or give an address if there’s no honorarium and no travel costs are reimbursed. If the topic is work you’ve done “outside” NPR (a book, for example), that could change things. But even then, if the invitation is from a government agency or political group you should probably say “no” — or not be surprised if that’s the response from your supervisor or the Ethics folks (Standards & Practices and the DMEs).

Beyond those issues, of course, is whether the event conflicts with not just your schedule and work, but also those of others on your desk or team. After all, if you’re out someone may need to cover for you.

Finally, the request might involve issues that aren’t on your beat. You and your supervisor should think about whether there might be someone else at NPR who’s a better fit for the speaking engagement.

(“Memmos;” Sept. 2, 2016)

September 2, 2016

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