Admit It: Luck Is A Crisis PR Factor

There’s an aspect to PR that doesn’t get talked about enough. What better time to talk about it than St. Patrick’s Day?

This past week, for the first time, we specifically mentioned luck, something not acknowledged enough, as a frequent factor in success.

DTE Energy invited us to present to hundreds of Public Information Officers – communicators who are often on the front lines of disasters – for police departments, fire departments, government entities and hospitals. We were asked to take the audience through a crisis communications case critique and we chose one of our own involving the death of a worker on a job site. In fairness, a lot went well because of a client exceptionally committed to doing the right thing. But that wasn’t the only explanation.

I had the privilege of leading the conference discussion and shared the keys a successful communications outcome for the client in the face of tragedy including:

-Collaboration, among all “at the table”

-Respect, especially from the attorneys, who relinquished some control

-Values, those of the company were lived every step of the way

-Preparation and proactivity, so the company’s voice could be heard

-Luck, last but certainly not least.

If you have a PR role, be honest about the role that luck plays in your ups and downs. If a new client, someone who barely knows you, takes your advice, rather than ignoring it, that’s luck. If the event you’ve been working on for months ends up taking place while the nation is gripped by a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, that’s luck too. If the TV crew on the way to weekend story you pitched ends up diverted to shoot a big fire, that’s also luck. If the bad news story happens in the middle of the night and there’s nobody working in the newsrooms that would otherwise have covered it, that’s also luck.

In crisis communications, luck is often the biggest unknown factor. The details of the crisis itself, of course, are left to chance. The key is to have the right process in place with the right professionals, following the fundamentals every step of the way.

They say that luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity. In PR, that can often be the case. You have to prepare for the best and seize the opportunity to communicate when it’s presented to you.

But when it’s all said and done and you’re showing off or trying to explain results, be honest. It’s OK to admit when luck played a role.