The Canadian Public Relations Society

September already?

In public relations, Social Media on September 2, 2010 at 9:07 pm

The summer that wasn’t has come and gone and CPRS Calgary is back from our summer hiatus – watch for upcoming events soon. Over the “summer” our Twitter account kept up with all the latest developments in PR, communications and social media. We shared many articles about the PR and news industries, but one really stands out.

On July 22, in the midst of the BP oil spill, Eric Dezenhall published a piece titled “Is a Crisis Really a PR Problem?” He raises some strong points – what he calls “a more sober analysis of the role of communications”  – a few of which are excerpted here:

A corporate or institutional crisis has numerous players, investors, agendas and external crosscurrents that are not under the pushbutton control of a centralized management team. In fact, as anyone who has been through one of these crucibles will confirm, you don’t really “manage” a crisis at all as much as you pilot through it.

Crises by definition are unique, negative events. Companies simply aren’t geared up to handle the PR fallout because it’s not what they do. Even institutions that are better prepared to handle crises—such as the U.S. military—frequently are perceived to have failed at the PR side of things because they are dealing with intrinsically bad, truly outrageous, developments. Furthermore, the media and pundit-ocracy want companies to fail at PR. What journalist wants to say that, “while the coastline of four states was fouled, an entire eco-system destroyed, and thousands of families driven into financial ruin by the oil spill, we applaud BP’s PR efforts?”

By perpetuating the convenient chestnut that these major crises are fundamentally communications problems, PR people not only lose face with top managers who know better, but continue to set themselves up for failure by overbidding the role that communications in the resolution of serious problems.

Mr. Dezenhall’s points about the limitations of even the best crisis communications planning and execution are timely and important for all PR practitioners to acknowledge.

If you come across a great story about PR, communications, the news industry or anything else you think the 330+ communicators that follow our updates on Twitter will find valuable, you can tweet us @CPRSCalgary or send an email with the link to the article to

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Philip Mulder, CPRS Calgary. CPRS Calgary said: New blog post: September already? […]

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