The PR Paradox


Coming back to Katrina given that the storm and its aftermath continue to flood the news and opinion pages. Take Frank Rich’s commentary in yesterday’s New York Times. He chastised FEMA for its solicitation of “community relations officers,” instead of experienced emergency services workers. To Frank’s point, I was told that FEMA posted on its website a call for volunteers specializing in crisis communications.

Rich writes: “The two top deputies at FEMA remaining after Michael Brown’s departure, one of them a former local TV newsman, are not disaster relief specialists but experts in P.R., which they’d practiced as advance men for various Bush campaigns.”

So while Frank Rich takes FEMA to task for emphasizing PR over substance, another opinionated blogger – Mark Cuban – chastises FEMA for not having an effective communications system in place for the disaster relief effort:

“FEMA needs to realize that we are a media centric culture. We look for information wherever we can find it. The wider spread the communication, the more people will receive it and the more assistance, of the type that is needed, can be offered. I can only speculate, but based on what I saw today, which I’m sure was repeated in cities around the country, but millions, if not tens of millions of dollars in timely support was lost because people, including me were uninformed.”

Talk about mixed signals!