As public relations professionals, we are often like surfers – aware that epic waves will occasionally arrive and therefore doing our best to pre-position ourselves (for our clients) to catch and ride them all the way to media coverage glory. It doesn’t always work out that way, even when the approaching wave is a rare tsunami.
Tsunamis are rarely predictable, but in the case of the Supreme Court decision on health reform, there was no doubt one was coming. Sure enough, every news outlet and blog had an angle on the approaching story, whether it was the business press attempting to explain the decision’s potential impact on employers, consumer media explaining how it might impact family medical care and finances, political press handicapping winners and losers, healthcare blogs dissecting the costs to industry, or tech writers assessing whether the healthcare IT spend would be affected. Once decision day became known, the news tsunami began rising out of the sea, cresting just minutes before the court came into session today at 10 a.m. EDT.
Sure enough, all news eyes were on the court at that moment, from the cable networks to the bloggers to the Twitterverse. However, what is more interesting about this tsunami is how fast it will peter out now that the law has been mostly upheld. Sure, there will still be the reverberations that will echo endlessly in the political news media through the election, and there will no doubt be follow-on challenges to the law, but for the most part, it’s over after the weekend. Most of the press will return to their normal programming.
If the court had struck down the individual mandate, or the law entirely, it would be quite another story. It would have occupied the top headlines for days and weeks to come, presenting all kinds of mind share and thought leadership opportunities for savvy public relations teams. Those will still exist, but hardly on the scale possible in an alternate outcome.
And that’s fine. One thing we’ve learned as a PR firm is that while news tsunamis are rare and often unpredictable, we are safe in the prediction that more will always come.