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August 19, 2014

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I tip my hat to PRSA and Stephanie Cegielski. This is a classic example of how professional associations should do things; i.e., speak out when there’s a genuine reason, not just for the sake of speaking out. And in this case, PRSA was the right (and only**) group to do it. Kudos to them for doing it.

I think I understand what Kovitz was trying to do – well, I’ll give her the benefit of a very strong doubt. Yes, there are some good PR lessons coming out of last week’s sad news. But as some commenters pointed out, neither the post nor its timing were appropriate; they turned what could have later served as a teaching moment (or even a business opportunity) instead into something insensitive and too self-serving.

If Kovitz was genuinely concerned about maximizing mental health awareness at this difficult time, she could have done it one-on-one (i.e., in private, not online). Imagine, if you will, if Edelman had reached out to a couple of key mental health advocacy groups and offered to work with them – pro bono - to launch a major outreach initiative! It could have become a feather in Edelman’s cap (and a long-term business builder) while potentially touching and saving people's lives. A win-win opportunity, rather than a poor reflection on one of the largest PR firms.

Instead, Edelman blew it by allowing this post to go online. I’d expect a savvy PR organization to recognize the pitfalls and counsel against it. The fact that Edelman didn’t do that makes me wonder: if they give themselves such bad advice...

I'm sure they can do better.

Again, kudos to PRSA for properly calling them out on this. May we all learn from it.

(**I don’t think this would have been an item for IABC to comment on; PR is only one facet of its much broader scope. But I hope the association’s new leadership will help it finally develop its own meaningful advocacy strategies and practices.)

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