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Dynamic Chiropractic – January 1, 1997, Vol. 15, Issue 01

Our Debut

By Louis Sportelli, DC
I was pleased to have been invited to do a monthly column for Dynamic Chiropractic, and when asked to choose a subject, there was little or no hesitation on my part. I immediately asked if it would be okay with Dynamic Chiropractic if I wrote a column on "public relations." Not the kind of public relations column which gives specifics on "how to" get on radio or "how to" get an article in the newspaper, but rather I wanted to be a bit more global and expansive with this column and discuss the virtual explosion in public relations which has occurred in the past 15 years.

This first column, however, I will simply use as an opportunity to introduce the column and perhaps discuss a bit about why I believe this column may provide a valuable sounding board and a heightened awareness of the expanded activity in the popular media today concerning chiropractic.

From 1980 until 1995, I served as the media spokesperson for the American Chiropractic Association. During those 15 years, I did hundreds of interviews and was exposed to a variety of reporters and commentators from the very top professionals, to the very bottom of the unskilled amateur. I encountered probing, incisive, stinging, scathing, penetrating and perceptive interviewers, as well as the superficial and fluff questions designed only to fill available space. The knowledge of the subject under review and the depth of investigation and validation ranged from impressive and meticulous, to grossly incompetent and even biased, lacking objectivity and fairness.

During this 15 years, I have witnessed the chiropractic profession go from literally begging for interviews, to being specifically solicited for commentary. Quite a change in attitude and authority for the chiropractic profession.

My column in the next 12 months will focus on the media itself, the change in the media, current high profile chiropractic mention in stories and shows, from the most recent popular sitcom "Friends," to the November 1996 article by syndicated columnist Mike Royko, "Your Pet Need a Chiropractor? Don't go to one in Illinois."

I will attempt to present a poignant analysis of the recent public relations issues and discuss the various positions taken by the profession relative to these episodes and how the profession's response to these incidents can and will affect the collective and individual image of the profession in the court of public opinion. What we say as a profession, how the issue is ultimately handled, and what chiropractic would like to have happen all means very little, because the court of public opinion is where the battle is ultimately won or lost.

I would ask the readers of Dynamic Chiropractic to send me any articles, alert me to any shows or send in any significant public relations issue that you would like to have discussed in this column. Fax me at 610-826-7500 with a late or great breaking news article, TV show, or magazine article you think has some significance and we will discuss it.

There have been many in chiropractic who have espoused seminars on the "way" to handle public relations. Others have had diametrically opposing points of view, mine included, and I plan to debunk a few myths and kill a few sacred cows (they make the best burgers).

This column will provide a forum to discuss the issues facing the profession from the media's point of view. It will provide me with an opportunity to discuss the issue of professionalism and the need to develop a bit of humor and not take ourselves so seriously. Often we view every attack, large or small, as a reason to man the torpedoes full speed ahead.

Understanding the media will require skilled leadership in the new millennium who must be aware and very media savvy. The future is not simply found, it is invented by design. It is shaped by people with vision. As we begin the new year with this new column, often times there is a lack of reflection on the many good things which have occurred and balance the issues with common sense and sound judgment.

Chiropractic is now in its 102nd year and still going and going, like the now familiar battery in the bunny. Chiropractic has had the resiliency to continue to bounce back in the face of adversity. As a group we have withstood each and every assault launched at the profession and emerged, tarnished perhaps, but with fighting spirit still intact. Yes it is easy to be discouraged in these times of change. It is easy to become cynical when disparaging comments are made on popular TV shows and in household journals. I am hopeful, however, that this column will provide some overview of the positive, and I won't back away from the negative media issues which confront this profession almost daily, and how these stories can affect each one of us.

In today's multimedia world of satellite laser printed newspapers, sound bite driven television, internet web pages, there is no place to hide from the realities of having to face the media issues which will emerge to challenge, prod, motivate, encourage, and expose those within the chiropractic community who would violate the public trust.

With an early welcome to you to join with me to make this column a good one, I wish you a happy, healthy and prosperous new year and may the "Media be with US!"

Louis Sportelli, DC
Palmerton, Pennsylvania

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