Charlotte Risch made an interesting post in last week’s Valley PR Blog, she claimed that PR practitioners may be the new “ambulance chasers” replacing lawyers, who were previously attached to nickname. The derogatory term, in short, is defined by TIME magazine as a lawyer who persuades an injured person to hire them to sue for personal damages.
Risch made this comparison to ambulance chasers after Nadya Suleman, who gave bith to octoplets in early February after already having six previous children, hired a publicist instead of a nanny. I understand why Risch made this comparison, Suleman should be more focused on her 14 children rather than her relationship with the media. However, Suleman became an overnight sensation in the media.
At first it was positive attention but the headlines started turning against her when the truth behind her controversial pregnancy was revealed. The situation changed from a sensation to a crisis and who better to handle that than a publicist that specializes in crisis management. An ethical PR practitioner should serve as a mediator between Suleman and the media and advise her on actions she could take to improve her reputation in the public’s eye. However, if a PR practitioner acts unethically by drawing more attention to the client by making her out to be a “victim,” that would be the “ambulance chaser” that Risch is referring to.
In response to Risch’s frustration with people asking what PR is and questioning its involvement in cases like Suleman, I think we should take this as an opportunity to explain to people what crisis management is. If we explain that when crisis management is done properly and ethically it can be benefical to all parties involved and something good can come out a bad situation.
I understand the resoning behind Risch’s analogy, but we should be hesitant to associate the PR profession to more derrogatory terms than it already is. As long as practioners stick to the ethics the profession is based on (PRSA Ethics), critics will have fewer opportunities to attach it to derogatory terms.