By Edward M. Bury, APR (aka The PRDude)
One service performed by strategic public relations professionals centers on counsel mitigating a potential threat to the client or organization.
It’s better known as crisis communications preparation, and every senior practitioner today should have the skills needed to craft a strategic program and initiate tactics should a crisis arise in this era of digitally-driven, non-stop news.
Of course, the true value in managing a crisis lies in having the plan in place before it’s needed.
Over the past several weeks, we’ve been in the wake of a seemingly ongoing cycle of men in high places being accused of abusive actions to girls and women, as well boys and young men.
You know where I’m going — the evolution of the #MeToo Movement. And, of course, the fallout it has created.
Movie moguls, actors, newsmen, elected officials and men from other industries have been charged with alleged misgivings and even crimes that took place recently and in the distant past. By the time this post is published, there’s the strong possibility that a new story on this topic will surface.
This has prompted me to ponder what advice and counsel I would provide to a client who was the subject of allegations related to sexual and other abuse. Frankly, the foundation of crisis mitigation centers on addressing the issue immediately, honestly and tactfully. This is the general advice I would provide.
But what about a different scenario: The client informs you that he (or perhaps she) did, indeed, abuse an underling, employee or colleague. The client charges you with preparing a strategy and plan.
What advice do you offer? Do you advise the client to come forward and admit to conduct that may be career-ending or even criminal in nature? Or, do you develop a plan to execute should the charges surface?
Frankly, I’m at a quandary.
The PRSA Code of Ethics cites Provisions of Conduct that include open disclosure of information and a free flow of information; but from another perspective, ethical public relations professionals should safeguard confidences, avoid conflicts of interests and enhance the profession.
The national conversation on the sexual abuse topic, and its long-range implications, is just beginning to take hold in the nation’s consciousness. Earlier today, Time Magazine published its annual Person of the Year issue. The subject: The Silence Breakers — The Voices That Launched a Movement.
There’s no question that in the days and weeks to com, more women — and assuredly men, too — will step forward and recount allegations of being abused by someone who held power.
The question I have: Are ethical public relations professionals prepared to render sound counsel?