Monday, May 24, 2004


Some crises never go away. Just when you think there will be no more stories because the media have beaten a topic to death, new articles appear and an organization hears itself condemned again. It's demoralizing, wearing and frustrating. Anger is natural as well as defensiveness. Neither are good for handling a crisis. Worst of all is a feeling of helplessness, a creeping conviction that nothing one does will fix the situation or make it go away. Loss of control is particularly hard for people who have been successful all of their lives in mastering events.

But some things cannot be mastered. They just are, and one lives with them or leaves the business. I'm thinking here of lawsuits and doctors. There was a time not that many years ago when being a doctor was a position of honor. Today, being a doctor means one is sued at least once and sometimes, over and over.

The feeling that one is here to help people has been replaced by wariness that maybe this patient or that one is out to make a buck. It's the pain of being dragged into court and called an incompetent boob because one made a judgment call that didn't work out. OB-GYNs in the US live with this situation. Inevitably, a woman will have complications during childbirth and just as inevitably the woman will sue the OB-GYN. It is so bad that many doctors have left the practice and some states have fewer doctors than they need. But that's the way it is and will be, even with laws to protect physicians. It is lingering crisis or chronic crisis, if you will. One prepares for the next event and not for a time when there will be no more events.

In situations like this, a public relations practitioner can never assume a better scenario. One explains what the organization or individual does and tries to build understanding that leads to reasonableness. It's a long-term grind and it isn't much fun. But, there is no other way to counter the drip-drip-drip of bad press. One tells the public repeatedly the reasons why the organization or individual is essential until the public hears or enough organizations and individuals disappear to make the points clear.

It's hard work and often unrewarding.


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