Insights / public-relations

Public Relations: “In Case of Emergency: What Not to Do”

This is a pretty decent article in The New York Times by Peter Goodman on August 21, and it is definitely worth reading from beginning to end. I am not going to repeat the lessons outlined in the article, because while there are solid points to be learned, there is nothing new here.

It’s a good review of what not and what to do when your organization has a major issue. The only thing astonishing is that CEOs continue to make the same mistakes when confronting a crisis, and the most important point to practice is having a crisis plan in place before you need it. But in my experience, most organizations will not invest the time or fund preparing in advance. Instead, they  risk gambling with their brand values.

Maybe adding more public relations content in business school curricula might help in the long-term, maybe not if our legal friends control outgoing communications during a crisis. The best way of course is to balance the court of law with the court of public opinion.

But, I have to chuckle — once again — at the in bedded way this journalist like many of his peers jabs at at the public relations profession. I especially like the way he refers to Howard Rubenstein as “the public relations agent” in the correction at the end of each online page. This hearkens back to the phrase press agentry most often associated with Hollywood and PT Barnum

At one point he also refers to a senior communication professional as a communications “coordinator” implying that our profession plays no counseling role. While I may sound annoyed here, I am not; I am over that phase. I am amused that this outdated perception persists. Goodman’s perspective may stem from being an outsider; one that has never had to work through a crisis or more aptly prevent one as a public relations professional.

Having been on the inside while working in a corporation or as an agency counselor like scores of my peers, I enjoy a great deal of satisfaction from assisting organizations of all sizes — for-profit and not-for-profit — successfully protect their brands and missions by helping them balance the needs of each stakeholder and do what’s right.