Sunday, May 31, 2009

When PR is in the news

Occasionally, we in the PR industry will find ourselves in the middle of a story rather than trying to assist a client with one. These situations will generally test an individuals skills in handling the scrutiny. And there is scrutiny from all corners. If we, as public relations pros, are not able to help ourselves in a crisis or otherwise difficult situation, then how can we help others?

Patrick O'Reilly is a good friend. He and I worked for the same firm - Stoorza. Now, he's in the news and, so far, seems to be riding it out well.

As this story points out, Patrick has many supporters. This is no accident. The good will Patrick has built up over the years with a large audience is paying off.

This fact, and a few other thoughts, prompt me to offer an observation.

Should a PR executive hire his or her own outside PR counsel in times like these? Attorneys do, so why not us? The reason to hire outside counsel is simple: if you are under a cloud and being questioned, you usually can't offer objective advice to yourself. Yet, in our industry, we know that hiring a PR counsel actually can increase the scrutiny. "It must be bad because he's hired a PR company."

Well, no one really needs to know about whether you hired outside PR counsel. Chances are, most of us would call a respected colleague, someone we trust would give us honest, unvarnished advice. Free advice is OK, but if the situation requires it - paid counsel should be considered. We would insist with clients to hire us to manage a crisis. It's no sign of weakness to hire counsel. It simply goes back to the simple fact that you can't look at your situation objectively, thus increasing the risk that you may do or say something that makes matters worse.


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