Thursday, May 27, 2010

When PR People Go Wild

Our job as public relations professionals is to be both the Heismann player and the bridge builder; we are supposed to protect the company/client from any fallout and make sure that the right message gets out. At the same time, we are supposed to help reporters, bloggers (now), and the public get information and get access to our executives (when appropriate). But the main thing is that PR people are conduits of information.

It's a nice tricky road we're on - one that has become more convoluted and difficult as media disappears and social media has risen (partially because social media does not get the dance and is not as professional to PR) - and too many PR departments default to the Heismann and try to impede stories. Partially because that is our job.

But here's a great example of a PR person that just goes on the offensive to try to quash a story that, well, the public has a right to know: a hospital misusing its gift funds.

Watch the clip and watch the PR person just be a jerk. The reporter is right - the PR person is being "crazy," and well one or two steps away from assault. Well, actually, he grabs the camera woman - so it can be classified as assault. And then tries to deflect blame and say that the media is at fault.

That's what the job of the media is - to tell the stories that we, as PR people, sometimes don't want told. But that's our job as PR people - to have answers and deal with uncomfortable situations, or just have non-answers that work well enough that people forget what they are asking. Apparently some of us do that better than others, changing the conversation and smiling the whole time. The fact is that a good PR person wouldn't have continued to touch the reporter (in a way that really was disruptive and antagonistic), but would have tried to stop the filming and postponed. What the video says to me? The PR person was a bit miffed that Dan Noyes is doing his job and dug up a good story. Petty revenge never works well.

The lesson? The 60 Minute tactic works for reporters. The gotcha moment is something that a good PR person is prepared for, and has answers - or non-answers - ready at the hip. And don't be antagonistic (unless you have the charm to get away with it) because when you get into a pissing match with the media, the media will usually win, especially if it's right.

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