Is There a (PR) Doctor in the House?

People, please. If this month has shown us anything, it’s the importance of regular PR check-ups.

Perfectly robust brands were savaged on Twitter and Tumblr. Seemingly innocent hashtags somehow backfired. On Facebook, rumors popped up like weeds, and villagers rioted, and company spokespeople ran amuck.

From the deck on Cherry Street, I watched these faraway developments and wondered: Don’t any of these folks know a public relations specialist?

Because that is exactly who they needed—and need still. Someone who can help them use Twitter for better crisis management. Or devise a novel plan to innoculate them against Twitter’s inherently viral utility.  Or make sure their Facebook pages invite engagement and not parody.

PR pros do all this for their clients. And, because social media becomes more powerful and, correspondingly, more risk-filled with each dawning day, the services of a public relations specialist grow ever more vital to the health of your brand—and your bottom line. Isn’t it time for your next checkup?


Seriously, don’t lie

Not that you would.

But if you know someone who might, you can tell him or her that being less than forthcoming with PR counsel often inflicts needless damage to reputations and bottom lines. Sometimes a lot of damage. And yes, sins of omission count double.

The impulse is understandable. But think about it for a moment: How much sense does it make to hide a problem from the person most qualified to help you face that problem with grace and solve it faster, easier, cheaper, better?

I’m too much of a Cassandra for the challenges of PR crisis management, so I stick to spreading good news and writing snappy little features. But here on Cherry Street we know and admire some PR pros who never break a sweat. Local, regional, national—if your friend needs a name, give us a call.

This is Why

Because he called on the morning of February 17 to say he “might need some help with the kids today.” I said it sounded like he was in the car. He said he was, in fact, in the car and did I know a back way through Beloit because he was driving south and might need, also, to get off the Interstate.

Because he called dozens of times in the ensuing days, sometimes frustrated, sometimes stunned, sometimes truly sad—yet always hopeful. I listened to him and remembered what a sunny kid he had been and how even today he just can’t waste his time saying anything bad. About anyone. We talked about fairness, justice, trust and what his kids were up to at any given moment. I told him he should get some rest and wear a blazer on television; I’m a big sister and we say things like that.

Because we grew up close and because so many people needed information—friends, family, strangers, people I’d heard of, people I’d never met, people who knew someone who knew us— I spoke out. And was instantly radicalized. I chronicled the lies, documented the attacks, speculated openly about motivations and consequences, bore witness. I felt the same disbelief that I’d heard in his voice on that first phone call. He couldn’t believe he was dodging a state trooper. Now I couldn’t believe the ferocity of my opinions and my willingness to express them in public. But there it was, for both of us. He moved from hotel to hotel. We met in stateline parking lots to transfer a jacket, a kid, a hug. My voicemail filled up, my email overflowed, dust and dishes piled up as my heart lurched between fear, outrage, resolve, gratitude. I unblogged for weeks while I tried to help him and he tried to help me and we tried to help everyone make sense of what was happening and see beyond the next bend in the road. 

Because in the end, after I had lost one client and gained two over what I did as a result of what he did, we realized we had made it. We had been tested and met challenges with our humanity intact. We saw the future unfurl in front of us, knew we would have to stand and be strong. He went home to catch up with his kids. I turned back to my company and caught up with my work. When he called we talked not about which hotel he was at in a different state but about what was to come in our own.

Because between that time and this, we stepped into a holding room, the eye of the hurricane, before the biggest rally ever. Everything was calm, one wall of the storm was behind us, the other not yet here. He said “We get to bring a person on stage. I want mine to be you.” We turned around to look back after we’d climbed the steps to the stage. The cheering was deafening, a roar that boomeranged around the capitol square again and again. Someone on the ground raised a camera, lifted it from the backdrop of 180,000 cheering people so that we stood framed against the blue sky of Wisconsin.

Because only a little brother, an adored little brother who grew up to become a strong, intelligent and kind man, who did something so brave that neither of us could hardly breathe for weeks, can get away with giving you bunny ears at a moment like that.

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