Here Comes the Story of the Hurricane…

By BRIAN TRAMONTANO
Vice President of Operations, National Planning Group Inc
Director at Large, PRSA Capital Region

Few things crystallize public opinion of a political leader like a disaster. So it makes sense that many of the political PR powers that be are hard at work positioning their clients in the wake of Hurricane Irene.

But how much of what our leaders do at those times when we seem to need them most is seen as political posturing for the media, how much as expedient leadership and how much as a mix of both?

As PR practitioners it’s a question worth considering.

Take N.Y.C. Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s handling of events leading up to the storm as an example. Was it a publicist-designed “Sky is Falling” act as this Daily News headline suggests or is the Mayor to be commended for his efforts as he is in this N.Y. Post editorial.

And what about President Obama? The pundits are already pontificating. Case in point, The Week synopsis. 

Those in our field know that clear, straight-forward media communication is key during a crisis. But is there a line that needs to be walked to avoid seeming self aggrandizing? (See this snippet from the Daily News article: “New Yorkers could barely turn on their TVs over the weekend without seeing the mayor giving a briefing or inspecting the troops.”)

I would argue that there is a line, but also that in the case of impending disasters, it’s better to err on the side of overexposure than it is to appear ill-prepared.

What do you think?

Was Bloomberg’s use of media over the top? Was he working double time to ward off comparisons to his widely panned handling of last winter’s New York City Blizzard? Were President Obama’s media efforts geared primarily toward thwarting Katrina comparisons?

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