While reviewing PR blogs I came across a post by Dan Wool in the Valley PR Blog that surprised me and directly relates to my current PR internship. I work at a local alternative rock radio station as a PR/Promotions Intern and member of the street team. While I have only been working there since January I have been an avid listener of the station for all four years I’ve been attending college here.
In April of last year the station underwent a huge shift as they replaced their local morning show host with a much less expensive syndicated host. This caused an uproar from station fans and habitual listeners of the host that I still feel the backlash of as a member of the street team today.
Fast forward to today, where the media has taken an even bigger dive and in reorganization of their company, CBS fired the syndicated host. For our company this meant an entire re-branding process of the station, and with it thousands of dollars and hours, completely wasted, and no morning show host to boot.
So when I read this post, indicating that our old station favorite has resurfaced on the airwaves of a competing station, I was baffled. How, with no morning show host, are we supposed to keep morning listeners once they find out that their old favorite is back on the radio on ANOTHER station? How do we position our station and brand our morning show with enough vigor to keep our morning listeners? I hate to sound bleak but this is the first time this economic crisis has really hit home for me. It looks to me as though the road ahead is going to be an bumpy one.
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.