The UK government has issued advice for those members of the public caught up in a crisis or a disaster – don’t hold your breath – it’s mainly a marketing push for its radio, TV and newspaper complaints channels.
It recommends people talk to a lawyer and that they should be aware of PR companies who can help manage the media.
As a card-carrying member of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (MCIPR) for more than 25 years – I would dispute this advice. Not because I don’t want my colleagues winning business, but because working with victims of disasters and taking a fee off them is generally NOT something ‘PR people’ do.
I’m pretty sure few, if any MCIPR or PRCA members would seek out paid work members of the public who have been affected by disasters, unless the individual was well enough to sell their story to the highest bidder – and again, that’s not supporting victims, it’s monetising their experience.
Yes, PR people work with business facing crises and to help them present themselves in a transparent and responsible way. They also work with celebs to manage relationships with the media and sometimes with governments, NGOs and multi-lateral organisations to help them get their message across to attract funds and support for humanitarian work and campaigns.
Our team here at CrisisManagement has worked on response and communications for significant issues and crises. We’ve supported people whose family members have been impacted by natural disasters, unlawful detention, terrorist kidnap or killings, but we’ve done that within the context of a corporate response to international crises, not as consultants. In those cases, we’ve often worked with third-party professional psychological care-providers, but we’ve never taken this kind of work to charge a fee. We have worked with and against lawyers who have initiated multi-party actions on behalf of hundreds, thousands and hundreds of thousands of plaintiffs, but that’s another story.
If an individual member of the public finds themselves in the middle of a media storm resulting from a terrorist attack or other disaster in the UK, often the police, and their experienced communications people, will help them keep a low profile and protect their privacy and that’s exactly as it should be.