Bad Press

Here are some elementary lessons about public relations that beginning P-R students learn, but that have apparently been lost on some members of the community. It seems that organizers of a 9-11 event in Franklin decided to close the event to the media.  In addition, leaders banned photography, audio and video recording. Now, the organizers are certainly within their rights to have a “closed” rally.  Sports teams do it all the time, entertainers have private parties, and we’ve seen several recent high-profile weddings where the guest list was restricted.

But here’s the rub:  almost any 9-11 event is going to generate public interest.  And when the list of participants includes politicians and other people who have been in the news, well, public interest jumps up more than a few notches. Public interest translates into news media interest, and one of the first thing P-R students learn is that if you tell reporters they aren’t welcome, that will, in itself be a news story, and the immediate assumption is that you have something to hide.  Of course, maybe you just want your privacy, but the truth is, the more you have been in the news, the more you and your activities are going to be scrutinized.

Talking about this to a friend the other day, he said, “Would you want reporters crawling all over your little daughter’s birthday party?”  Well, of course not.  But if she was famous, or if I had been in news stories about a controversial series of events, I would expect reporters to take an interest.  That’s just the nature of being in the public eye.  And when you have an event like a 9-11 rally that involves controversial newsmakers, closing the event just invites negative comments like, “I wonder what they’re hiding?”

Banning reporters also means they’re going to start digging for information, and I would think organizers know information is going to leak out.  Plus, photographers are going to be nearby with very long telephone lenses to see just who goes into the building. Tell you what:  I know some very good P-R students who understand the basics of dealing with the public a lot better than some of the folks who organized this rally.  Let me put you in touch.  That way my students can get jobs, and you can fix your image.
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