A Natural Disaster Should Never be PR’s Gain

Oct 30, 2012 Beth Monaghan

Is it appropriate to use natural disasters for PR campaigns? Never. A tweet today from Stuart Elliot of The New York Times reminded me of my blog post, “When to Speak Up and When to Shut Up,” which I wrote last year. It’s about when it might be appropriate to use tragedy for PR campaigns. The answer is virtually never.

Elliot’s tweet reminds us that even business as usual is too soon for those who are still reeling from the impact of Hurricane Sandy.

We need to remember that journalists are people too. They might be stuck at home dealing with flooded basements, children out of school, no power, and  loved ones to worry about. They may also be dealing with looming deadlines in the midst of this chaos, or they might be switching beats to pitch in to cover the storm itself. Many of those journalists are in New York City and PR pitches about superfluous issues will at best go unnoticed. At worst, they will be met with harsh criticism for callousness.

And as I said last year of natural disasters, unless you are organizing a benefit concert and donating ALL of the proceeds to the Red Cross, or you’re an emergency worker who’s on the scene helping to save lives or rebuild, leave it alone. We have plentiful, recent examples from the earthquakes in New Zealand, Haiti & Japan, and tornadoes here in the U.S. that have devastated entire regions and countries.

The best stories from natural disasters spring up organically about communities pulling together. The best we can do as PR people is to help spread the word of those stories and help propagate the unusual and amazing acts of kindness that follow great tragedy. We’ve spent countless hours building up our social channels, so let’s use them to help spread the good. I will be watching and tweeting.

Topics: Public Relations
Beth Monaghan

Since the early days working around her kitchen table, Beth has grown Inkhouse into one of the top independent PR agencies in the country. She’s been named a Top Woman in PR by PR News, a Top 25 Innovator by PRovoke, and an Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year finalist. Beth designed Inkhouse’s signature Storytelling Workshop to mirror the literary hero’s journey and to unearth the emotional connections that bind an audience to a brand or idea. She also uses narratives to build Inkhouse’s culture, most recently through two books of employee essays, “Hindsight 2020” and “Aren’t We Lucky?”

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