As featured in today’s Bulldog Reporter, the following Op-Ed:

http://tinyurl.com/295rph3

Social Media Relations Sinners or Winners? Hospital PR Pro Behaved Appropriately in Viral Video — But M.I.A.’s Tweet Missed the Mark

By Ronn D. Torossian, President and CEO, 5W Public Relations

Public relations professionals walk a difficult tightrope between serving clients who pay our bills and satisfying the media whom we usually have to convince to write about our clients. This is a delicate balance, and sometimes PR agencies (although we don’t often discuss it) are hired to keep our clients out of the media or deflect negative stories. We believe clients often hire us to protect them from the media, much as they would hire an attorney to protect them in legal proceedings.

A recent video making the rounds online—and attracting controversy—features an ABC San Francisco reporter, a PR representative for Laguna Honda Hospital (both male) and another hospital employee (female). The PR professional is being widely condemned for his behavior. I strongly disagree. Watch the video, and consider the following:

The reporter, a man, stands directly in the path of the shorter hospital administrator as she enters the room, and again as she tries to leave the room.

Using a camera as his bully pulpit, the reporter disrupts a planned meeting and follows the woman throughout the room and the hospital facilities as if he owns them.

If someone repeatedly blocked your way at work, what would you make of it? Additionally, both before the meeting and after, the reporter talks loudly over the woman, forcing her to repeat seven times that she is not available for an interview.

The PR pro appears to be doing his job: He didn’t raise his voice and, to my eyes, did all he could to deflect the reporter’s attention to himself. The PR professional is clearly an annoyance to the reporter. In the end, the PR person seems to have shut down the reporter’s planned ambush. (And doesn’t the reporter display a certain haughtiness?)

The spokesperson seemed to be protecting his staff (similar to how a good attorney would), and I for one fail to understand why one assumes that the media has the right to question people. Do people not have the right to “defend” themselves?

A completely separate controversy now surrounds the musical artist M.I.A., who was profiled this weekend by the New York Times Magazine in an article by Lynn Hirschberg. She subsequently tweeted to her over 111,000 followers the journalist’s cell phone number to express her displeasure at the reporter’s clearly negative story.

Wow! This is clearly harsh, and one can understand why M.I.A isn’t happy with the story. I’d ask why she did an interview regarding these issues? What was the artist trying to accomplish by allowing herself to be interviewed? I’d have suggested if she is concerned, why do the interview with the same journalist that wrote an extremely harsh article on Courtney Love (which also stirred up quite a bit of controversy)?

Clearly, this article will do quite a bit of lasting damage. Does M.IA. have any proof that the article is biased? Did she or her assistants record the interview (as we often do if we are entering sensitive interview ground)? If they did, they could then release interview segments showing its inaccuracy.

When dealing in the world of crisis communications, consider taping the interview and discussions for yourself (to guard yourself against a reporter’s possible agenda).

Understandably, Lynn Hirschberg called M.I.A.’s tweets “fairly unethical” and “infuriating.”

M.I.A. clearly misstepped. As an artist, M.I.A. may indeed have stepped over the boundary, but one wonders what the next moves from her PR team will look like.

Ronn Torossian is president and CEO of 5WPR, one of the 20 largest independent PR firms in the U.S. Named one of the top “40 Under 40” by PR Week & Advertising Age, Torossian is a semi-finalist for Ernst & Young 2010 Entrepreneur of the Year Award, and his PR agency works with a roster of iconic brands.


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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.