There is no public relations “perspective” on the tragedy that unfolded in Haiti this week. At least, there’s nothing that comes to my mind. Based on the chaos caused by Tuesday’s earthquake and the island nation’s sorry history, I don’t believe “public relations” will enter a discussion on Haiti any time soon.
Yet, I’m compelled to offer some thoughts and observations.
As I noted in my most recent post, a public relations program should have as its goal an outcome that’s good for people, animals or plants. Yes, awareness should be brought to the countries and agencies providing aid, and to the brave, unselfish men and women who are helping find those buried in the rubble and those left homeless. And, good people who want to donate to relief efforts should be made aware that there are bad people who want to steal their well-intended donations.
Public relations efforts are needed for these efforts because at its essence, public relations builds beneficial relationships between an organization and its publics. (I’ve shortened the classic definition from the one posted in Effective Public Relations, the landmark text on our profession.)
But what can be done at this time to help build beneficial relationships between Haiti as a nation and the rest of the world? This is a country of unthinkable poverty that has festered decade after decade due in part to corrupt leadership. When can be considered “stability” arrives in Haiti — and that surely will take years — what can the Haitian government do to enhance its reputation on the world stage? Do they have the resources to do so?
I did a Google search for “public relations agencies in Haiti” and found none. I clicked on the first search result and was directed to a web page set up by a leading U.S. PR firm. The page offers links to more than 20 places people can donate to Haiti relief efforts.
Can Haiti benefit from public relations in the future? I just don’t know. But I hope those of us who practice PR can use our skills to help this nation in some way.
While watching reports on television, these stood out:
- A British TV reporter described streets lined with corpses that were akin to “litter.”
- In a tent city, a young man kicked a soccer ball. He found some semblance of enjoyment and normalcy among the death and destruction.
- Rescue workers from so many nations arrived so quickly to help. They were driven by a common goal and employ a skill that only surfaces when things are really bad.
Even though my job situation is uncertain, I have donated to the Red Cross. I hope others will, too. I can escape what’s happening in Haiti by switching off the TV. Those who live there can’t.