Crisisblogger readers and readers of my Now Is Too Late books recognize that one of my key concerns about crisis communication is the instant news and infotainment worlds we live in. The hyper competitive news environment undermines traditional journalistic integrity in the search for the bleeding headline that will lead. Good companies, good reputation, good people too often get caught in the crossfire between new and old media.
Our good friend Pat Philbin was one example. From the day the story broke about FEMA’s “fake news conference” in October, 2007, I suspected that there was more to it than the news report suggested. That’s because we knew Pat from his work with Coast Guard and believed him to be a man of great integrity and a strong commitment to honesty and transparency. After meeting with Pat in DC and hearing his story, my initial reaction was correct–that he was indeed one of those victims of the rush to judgment required to build sellable audiences. The rush to judgment exhibited by the media was exacerbated by that exhibited by his superiors–far more concerned about their own reputations than what was right for a fellow public servant.
As anyone suffering unfair reputation damage knows, these things do not go away quickly or easily. Homeland Security Today recently wrote an article, understandably based on their highly faulty, media-based understanding of the situation. Pat has responded with this article which does a better job of anything I have read that explains why these things happen today, while even conveying a sense of the pain of being caught in the middle of them. Pat will be speaking on this topic at the PRSA conference in Detroit in October. It will be worth the ticket.