Public relations cannot prevent a disaster.
But not practicing public relations can cause one.
Before I go any further, I should probably explain public relations first. It is not just sending a press release to the media and a story coming out the next week. It is not just sending it to other media. Public relations is about dealing with a business’s or non-profit’s various publics. That includes the media, supporters, detractors, board members, customers, the person on the street, government officials and anyone your work may touch.
One of the biggest and most issued questions on social media and the comments sections of mainstream articles is why does one story get attention and one does not? Why do people get upset about one crisis and not another? It often comes down to public perception prior to the event. How beloved by the general public was this person or institution suffering a crisis?
And sometimes the loudest voice gets the attention.
So how does not practicing public relations cause a disaster? Many businesses and non-profits don’t prepare for the media side of the worst things that can happen. They are indifferent to the general public and don’t engage the community. They alienate their allies such as board members and donors by keeping them out of the loop on information, or worse yet, ignoring their advice. They react with hostility to questions from the general public and don’t address the issues when in the media. They don’t prepare for any kinds of crisis so when a crisis does happen – and it will happen – they lose valuable response time trying to figure out what to do. Finally, they blame others for the mistake and don’t look inward as to what caused it.
Remember, it’s easy to tell someone how to manage a media crisis after it happens. But is wiser and more worth your time to prevent one from happening.