September 24, 2022

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Public Service PR Takes a Bizarre Turn


Ronn Torossian agrees, that when most folks think about public relations, they think about a company in trouble, or a celebrity out there promoting their latest work. But, perhaps one of the most demanding aspects of public relations is in protecting and disseminating messages when you work in a public service sector. This is where a Crisis PR Firm can help you out!

Beyond the Freedom of Information Act, which puts all your “secrets” out there for anyone to see and, sometimes, misinterpret, you are always working under the microscope and spotlight glare of The People Who Pay Your Salary.

Now, this can be a difficult scenario in the best of times, but when one of your employees goes and does something so magnificently boneheaded that it makes the national news and elicits universal rage, you can’t just go home and lock your doors. You MUST deal with the blowback. Case in point, the circus surrounding New Roads, Louisiana Police Chief Kevin McDonald.

A local resident was having a medical issue, and called for help. A local volunteer firefighter in a marked vehicle responded first. He left his truck parked, lights flashing at the end of the person’s driveway, and ran inside to render assistance. Shortly thereafter, while the firefighter was still rendering aid, a New Roads police officer entered the home, and demanded that the fireman move his vehicle. He refused, and the two got into a verbal altercation. When paramedics arrived to assist the victim, the police officer handcuffed the fireman, and put him in the back of the squad car.

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As you might imagine, a figurative firestorm has erupted. Again, the police chief must respond. His dubious choice was to defend his officer, saying the fireman had been, quote, “sarcastic.”

Note to anyone involved in public service PR. First, sarcasm is not a crime. Second, don’t try to sell that lunacy to the general public.

The result of this announcement was a barrage of angry emails and comments on message boards, blog posts, and social media. Many are now calling out the police official, as well as the offending officer.

Now, the Louisiana state Fire Marshal’s office has launched an investigation. With both public opinion, and soon, legal action and unions against him, that New Roads’ police chief will have a lot of explaining to do.

Explaining he could have avoided with the help of the right PR team.