By Jenny Fujita and Joy Miura Koerte, Fujita & Miura Public Relations

When the Vatican chimney puffed white smoke and Joseph Ratzinger was elected Pope Benedict XVI on April 19, it was both a beginning and an end. Of course, it was the beginning of a new reign for the Roman Catholic Church. But, it also marked the end of a savory mystery that had romanced the world (Catholics and non-Catholics alike) for weeks.

What was happening inside those hallowed walls? What were the cardinals saying to each other and thinking in their private moments? What did they eat and drink? What kind of paper and pens did they use for the ballots? We’ll never know the answers to a good number of those, and many other, questions.

There are two communications lessons at hand here. One is that mystery can be used to your business’ best advantage. If you have a good news story to tell, withhold a bit of information and keep people wondering until the right time, all the while remaining positive and optimistic in your tone (wear a Mona Lisa grin if you must!). When your announcement is ready to be released, do it with as much pomp and circumstance as possible. Make it a celebration worthy of the mystery you created, at a time when you can tell your whole tale to a public waiting in baited breath.

The second PR lesson is an extension of the first, that, in most cases, you are only obligated to tell the public as much or as little as you like, at a time of your choosing. Just because there’s good news to tell doesn’t mean everyone should know all about it. So it is with Ben Affleck and his new love, Jennifer Garner. Some say they’re engaged, some say they aren’t. According to E!online, “Garner is said to have warned the very famous ex-fiancé of Jennifer Lopez, ‘The one thing that will kill this relationship is overexposure.’” The story continued, “‘She was really adamant,’ confided a Garner confidante regarding the 33-year-old action vamper’s desire to keep her current romantic life on the down-low. ‘She made that very clear to Ben.’”

There are some things we should all keep on the down-low until we’re ready to face the positive and negative consequences of public exposure. What does “ready” mean? It means that once you let the white smoke out of the chimney or place a diamond ring onto a left finger, you’ve thought carefully about your story, you’re sure about the details, and you’re ready to carry out your promises and intentions.

Please note that these same tactics don’t work if there’s bad news to tell. In that case, it’s usually better to be open and up front before the coconut wireless inserts its own details into your story, even if you have to say, “I’m not sure what happened, but I’ll let you know as soon as I find out.”

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