Leadership and PR during a Crisis

When Pearl Harbor was attacked US President Franklin Delano Roosevelt addressed COngress and the United States. When jJapan surrendered to the United States it was Emperor Hirohito who addressed the Japanese People. When President Ferdinand Marcos declared Martial Law he addressed the Filipino nation. When disaster struck the Philippines the Earthquake that led to massive damage to Luzon or when Pinatubo erupted President Corazon Aquino addressed the nation.


When something tragic or important happens it is the task of the leader of the nation to address the people of the situation, what happened, what was happening and what needs to be done.

President Aquino and his government has been criticized for their action, rather lack of it when the tragedy of Sendong happened. The President was pictured as callous for attending a party and for not being in the disaster areas after it happened. And the Internet has since then been in conflict with itself on whether what he did was right or wrong. It further did not help that statements from close family members began to viewed and painted across the net as to something the French Queen Marie Antoninette was famous and allegedly said when informed that the people of France were hungry, “Qu’ils mangent de la brioche” or “Let them Eat Cake.”

The Public Eye is a cruel mistress and the Aquino administration must be aware of this but not paralyzed by this as well. Yes, despite the different versions of story the President did attend a Christmas party. Who among his accusers did not go to a Christmas Party on that fateful day. As to what friends and kin say in one’s defense sometimes it can be more of a bane than a boon. Even the question whether he should go to the disaster area is not as important.

What is important then? What is crucial to the People?

Did the President and this government prepare and do anything when Sendong came?

Did the President and this government addressed the people right after the disaster?

Did he, as President, Leader of the Nation and First Citizen of the Republic speak to the other Citizens of the Republic?

The Public: The People expected this.

In the United Kingdom, when Princess Diana died it took sometime for the Royal Family to issue a statement and react to the news. Their inaction drew condemnation from the public and it was onlty after that they acted. And this was the death of a popular princess. How many people suffered and died in Cagayan De Oro and Iligan City? As of this morning over a thousand.


There have been talk and discussion online about the governmet needing better PR. The problem with that is PR at its best is only a means not an end. In fact too much emphais on PR can paralyze a person, a government. And this because the government would be too fixated on its public persona so much so that it cannot lead effectively. As the old Storyteller Aesop might have saud a government too much fixated on PR is like an old man with two wives, one wanting only white hair and the other wanting only black hair, very soon the old man would have no hair at all.

PR must help implement policy and actions and not policy and actions ditacted by PR.

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