Dennis Culloton, President & CEO
Some days it seems like my career has been a series of scary public relations crises. However, there are some moments that are more scary, bizarre, or chaotic than others. My career in crisis communications is a litany that reads like the plot of the next “Final Destination” movie.
It’s a series of unfortunate, sometimes tragic, events but let it be known PR is not a field for the easily perturbed nor are things completely out of your control. No matter what form the crisis– be it man made disaster, an act of God, human frailty, or crime — you can predict many of the twists and turns the dramas will take. In every case, crisis planning before disaster strikes can make the situation a little less frightful.
Ashleigh Johnston, Account Executive
My scariest PR moment is when I get sent out into the wild. My legacy is that I never know where I’m going at any given time, to the point where I could probably get lost in my own house. When someone tells me to go north, south, etc., I panic. My lack of direction is so bad it’s contagious because my phone is absolutely no help, as for one event, it incorrectly took me 40 minutes out of my way to a client’s event that in reality was 10 minutes from my house. PR can be a sedentary job at times, or it could require you to bounce from meeting to meeting and in a city like Chicago that’s no small request. Any time I need to leave the office it’s a big deal to me, and a triumph if I can somehow find my way.
Julia Schatz, Senior Account Executive
For someone who is not a fan of public speaking, PR is the perfect place to work behind the scenes. The scariest moment in my career was when I found out I had to lead a meeting where mayors, lobbyists and bosses (oh my!) who had been working on the subject for years were the audience.
Angela Benander, Vice President of Advocacy and Corporate Responsibility
I was accompanying my boss to a meeting in the West Wing at the White House and came face-to-face with Supreme Court Justice Scalia in full robes. For a liberal like me, that was terrifying! (Oh, and Karl Rove was there, too).
Patrick Skarr, Account Supervisor
Don’t know if it rises to scary or will make the hair on the back of your neck rise, but not being able to be in control of an event certainly causes heartburn and anxiety.
One fond memory was organizing a town hall meeting on health care reform in the summer of 2010. We had a room full of liberal hippie activists and rock-ribbed conservatives, all eager to chime in their two cents. Earlier that week, Sen. Specter’s town hall had reached worldwide iconic status with a very angry finger-wagging participant; does this photo trigger any memories?
Two members of the House were the featured guests, so the media showed up looking for trouble and a headline. We made the call not to allow the film cameras to record the event, to avoid having folks performing for their 15 minutes of fame. That decision aggravated the media, but helped maintain the order of the luncheon and we had a productive session.
Chaos is the most ghoulish fiend to PR professionals. Protestors and activists looking to disrupt an event you’re planning cause stress, serve as an intimidating force to attendees, but can be managed through with discipline, planning and patience.