I think Stuart Elliott, advertising writer for The New York Times, said it best in his October 30 tweet:
“To those PR people who think you’ve waited a decent interval after #Sandy to resume business as usual…you would be wrong.”
When working in PR, no matter how good you think your pitch is, if breaking news or a significant national event occurs, that will dominate the local and national news coverage and push whatever story you may be pitching to the back burner. And, rightfully so.
Hurricane Sandy is obviously the most recent example of this. Like so many others, I was glued to the news for days, relying on reporters to give me the latest on the weather, how to prepare and what to expect. And after the storm passed, the news was my source to learn about the devastation as well as the amazing stories of heroism.
When I returned to work after the storm passed, I found myself feeling uncomfortable with the idea of pitching reporters about stories that, in the shadows of Hurricane Sandy, didn’t feel appropriate to promote at the time. So many of us at D+P started asking the same question, “How Soon is Too Soon?”
Where there was not the urgency of a large event, we held off on reaching out to media for about a week following Hurricane Sandy. We wanted to be sensitive to the natural disaster, and also determined that it would not position our clients in the best light to promote their own agenda at that time. In the end, we let the news coverage be our guide. Once media started incorporating other news topics into their coverage, we slowly started reaching back out to them on our clients’ behalf.
As much as we live every day trying to let audiences know about the great work of our clients, there are times when other situations are the priority, especially in times of tragedy when lives are lost. As PR people, we are wired to want to spread the word, but sometimes it’s important to know when to just be quiet.