Last week, a team of professionals (volunteers) from the Public Relations Society of America conducted a workshop for the Federal Emergency Management Agency external affairs and management staff at its Washington, D.C.-based headquarters. The workshop was also broadcast to FEMA's 10 regional offices.
FEMA accepted the invitation by PRSA to conduct the workshop within weeks of the agency's widely criticized fake news conference during the California wildfires in October. In a public response after that event, PRSA encouraged FEMA to use the PRSA Code of Ethics as a guide to “review the current incident, prevent future errors in judgment and restore public confidence.”
Second Program for US Government this Year
This is the second time this year that PRSA leaders have sponsored programs for government entities. In September, they co-sponsored a program on public diplomacy for Congressional members and their staff with the U.S. State Department. The topic of that gathering was the image of the United States overseas.
As a member of PRSA, and a participant in many of its programs, I find that this level of engagement on issues of advocacy on issues of importance for public relations laudable. It remains to be seen if the involvement of the PRSA will make an appreciable difference in the ethical practice of public relations. However, that the profession (as a whole) is being invited to participate at this level can't be bad.
The Agenda of the FEMA Meeting
According to the PRSA press release, the agenda included an analysis and discussion of the PRSA Code of Ethics; societal expectations for ethical communications, trust and reputation in the age of new media; response strategies for hostile stakeholder groups; crisis communications management; relationship-building with partners in government; addressing the specific needs of multi-cultural and multi-generational groups; and case study analysis for applying the PRSA Code of Ethics day-to-day at multiple levels of decision-making.
What Would You Do?
If you were charged with putting a dream team together to counsel FEMA going forward, what would cover, what would be the agenda, and whom would you engage to assist you?