If you want to know how a company or organization holds up in terms of public relations, the easiest way to find out is to check out their merits. One police force in Northumbria in the UK recently won one such award, but the result is slightly less than positive.
The Northumbria PD nominated themselves for the Chartered Institute of Public Relations PRide Awards, and ultimately took home the gold award for the way they handled the death of a 16-year-old girl.
Hayley Adamson was killed when she was hit by a police cruiser driving over 90 miles per hour in pursuit of a suspected stolen vehicle. The Northumbria PD did a bang up job of minimizing the damage afterword, in what was without doubt, a skillful PR endeavor.
But after being honored with the award, the police force is facing its own PR disaster, coming under fire for seeking approval after such a tragedy.
The award the force received dealt with crisis management, which is exactly what they did… So what’s the deal? It seems to me that it is always going to be tricky when it comes to awards that revolve around crises. If it’s a crisis, then someone probably got hurt, whether it’s physically, emotionally or financially–so how do we reconcile the desire for recognition with the continued commitment to minimizing harm?
I agree that it was probably in bad form to seek out an award after this death. True, this force deserved the award; they managed to calm the community and avoid what critics had deemed unavoidable riots, but calling attention to the strategy behind their work seems to cancel out any of the good will they may have built up.
Awards are obviously a huge part of the industry, and something that most organizations strive to receive, but in this case it seems that the pros of the award are far outweighed by the cons of the resulting PR nightmare.
So what do you think? Should the Northumbria PD have sought recognition for their skillful handling of the Hayley Adamson tragedy? Would it have been different if someone else had nominated them, rather than their self-nomination?