In A Crisis, A PR Firm Isn't A Luxury

Luxury-chinaAll of a sudden, hiring a PR firm is like buying a Rolex watch or wearing a Louis Vuitton purse or even traveling on a Lear jet. The Flint Water Crisis and uproar after Michigan Governor Rick Snyder’s PR mistakes makes it seem like we’re viewed by many as a luxury item.

When there’s a legal crisis, nobody thinks twice when a law firm is hired. When there’s a serious tax issue, of course you bring in the accountants. In a complex real estate deal, there are always brokers and consultants involved. But hire a PR firm in a PR mess and it’s viewed like drinking hand-ground Kona coffee while working behind the counter in a 7-11.

Case in point is a quote from a column in the Detroit Free Press. The columnist argued that the Governor should pay more attention to the financial crisis in the Detroit Public Schools. That’s fine. But here’s some of the language that helped make that case:

“Rather than hire PR professionals, as he did to handle the Flint crisis, the governor might consider hiring someone to temporarily run the Detroit school district and really balance the budget…”

So that’s an either-or proposition? Can’t you hire a competent financial executive and PR counsel? This makes it seem like hiring PR help was somehow out of line.

This reminds me of a crisis I worked on not too long ago. Some on the client side didn’t want me talking to journalists covering their story, even though I had known some of them for many years, because “then they would know a firm was brought in.” So what? Would you complain if you were having service issues somewhere and the company brought in someone who you know personally to help serve you better?

In the case of the Governor, he and his office need the PR help. Their primary staff people have little to no experience on the client side of a crisis. Whether they brought in the right firms or sought help soon enough can certainly be questioned. But bringing in support in times of a crisis shouldn’t be considered an extravagance.

Simply put, no individual, or more importantly, no organization, can successfully withstand a crisis or turn any kind of organization around unless there is a successful communications component. Crisis management and PR are inextricably linked. Few in-house professionals have the experience or perspective to do it alone. So that’s where we should come in.

It doesn’t have to cost a fortune and it should be considered a necessity rather than a luxury.