flint water pr

When people are faced with bad news, even if they are not at all impacted, doubt can set in. That doubt grows, unaided, like a nefarious seed, creating PR issues for groups and organizations completely unrelated to the initial issue. When any entity fails to grasp the public relations fallout from a significant PR crisis and allows that message to spin out of their control, the trouble can expand exponentially.

Consider the impact of the water crisis in Flint, Michigan. The news stories coming out of that beleaguered city are distressing. Tens of thousands of children poisoned, permanently disabled by ingesting high quantities of lead-infused water. There is no doubt the leaders in Flint didn’t take the problem seriously enough, and certainly have not acted quickly enough in the wake of the reveals.

Initially, people outside of the crisis looked on with horror, sorrow, and empathy for the victims. They felt anger at the inaction and bad decisions of the leadership. They looked on with loathing. And continued watching while, essentially, nothing was done.

Now internal loathing from afar is morphing into distrust and fear directed at their own leadership. In a recent Associated Press poll, less than half of respondents said they trusted their own city’s water supply. Most filter their water, many won’t drink it at all.

Worse, because of the racial makeup of Flint, many minorities and individuals of all races at the lower end of the economic spectrum are even less trusting of their own water supply. They may live half a continent away, but they identify with the pain felt in Flint, and their distrust for local governments has grown as this story drags on.

Put simply: bad news landed in Flint, and, like a rock tossed into a pond, the ripples of that PR crisis has caused people totally unrelated to the situation to feel doubt and fear of governments nowhere near Flint.

Take note, PR teams and brand managers. When something negative hits your industry, whether you were involved or not, you need to be prepared to protect your clients and protect your brand. When others are seen as uncaring and slow acting, you must increase your care and speed of action. You must visibly and consistently connect in positive ways. Don’t just sit by and watch a competitor burn. If you do, that fire might singe you before it burns out.

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Ronn Torossian is the Founder, President and CEO of New York-based 5W Public Relations. He has overseen the company's rapid growth and expansion to the Inc. 500 list, as well as provided counsel to hundreds of companies, including members of the Fortune 500, Inc. 500 and Forbes 400. His work spans global interests, corporate entities, high-profile individuals, regional business entities, government agencies and academic institutions - both on routine public relations matters and extremely sensitive issues. One of the foremost public relations experts in the U.S., Torossian is known for his aggressive, results-focused orientation, as well as his close working relationships with members of the media, influencers, decision makers, politicians and celebrities. At 5W Public Relations, Torossian's client experience has included programs for Coca-Cola, Microsoft, Anheuser-Busch, Barnes & Noble, Cantor Fitzgerald, IHOP, McDonald's, Evian, EDS, VeriSign, XM Radio, Seagram's, The Loews Regency, Bad Boy Worldwide Entertainment, Marriott Hotels, Vail Resorts, Pamela Anderson, Snoop Dogg, the Government of Israel, and others. Referred to by The New York Post as a "publicity guru," by Fox News as a "high-powered PR CEO," by Tyra Banks as a "crisis management guru," and by CNN as "a leading PR expert," Torossian is regularly featured in and quoted by the media, including by CNN, Fox News Channel, MSNBC, NBC, The New York Times, and others. CBS National News said "Ronn Torossian knows spin," and a New York Times feature story on Torossian referred to him as "The consummate hard-driving, scrappy NY publicist." Earlier in his career, Torossian was a Vice President/Group Director for one of The InterPublic Group's (IPG) largest PR agencies, where he was responsible for significant client growth and successful client programs, including work for Clinique, Fox News Channel, DHL, Hard Rock Café and others. A resident of Manhattan’s Upper West Side, Torossian was named to the Advertising Age "40 Under 40" list, PR Week's "40 Under 40" List, is a regular lecturer at universities and conferences, a member of Young Presidents Organization (YPO) and a board member of numerous non-profit organizations.