With the end of 2011 almost upon us, it’s an opportune time to look back at the worst PR moves of the year. There were many mishandling of crisis PR situations this year – reputations were trashed, careers and brands forever changed amidst a slew of PR blunders.
As Warren Buffett has said “It takes twenty years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.”
The worst handling of a crisis PR situation:
Herman Cain: With Herman Cain dropping out of the race this weekend, we saw a complete disintegration of all of the basic rules surrounding crisis PR. Cain never addressed the various sexual allegations in a clear manner, rather, he dodged reporters, cameras and questions.
Cain believed that the issue would go away and the media would stop asking questions merely because he asked them not to. He never told the story, nor did he get out in front of the story and tell the truth. But the story never went away – and his initial reaction to these allegations was that of a “deer in headlights.” Cain looked lost and confused – and now is a lost and confused private citizen rather than a frontrunner candidate for President of the USA.
Anthony Weiner: Another political scandal takes the cake, that of disgraced Congressman Anthony Weiner – once regarded as the leading candidate for Mayor of NYC — Weiner’s reputation was tarnished due to a sexting scandal. Had Weiner told the truth from Day 1, the story may have been limited and not exploded — his wife stood by him, he didn’t break any laws and his issue may have passed. Instead, the formerly brash, outspoken Weiner appeared broken before our eyes in the media. Broken for lying and dumb activities.
Penn State: For evil to succeed, good people stand on the side and allow evil to happen. At Penn State, a blind eye to child molestation went on for years. Watching the reaction of the university leadership and community one saw warped values at Penn State which I believe will harm the brand for many years to come. “WE ARE PENN STATE” has long been the university slogan – that slogan has now been changed to “Don’t ask, Don’t Tell” as it relates to the (at least) 8 children who were raped and molested by Jerry Sandusky, the assistant football coach at Penn State.
In the eyes of many, the crisis was compounded by student reaction at Penn State – as they rioted in support of head coach Joe Paterno after he was fired. They flipped over trucks, brought down light posts, set off firecrackers and clashed with police amidst chants of “Hell no, JoePa won’t go!” and “We are Penn State!” They make it quite clear he’s a winner on the football field and don’t care that he never called the police – and Sandusky visited his locker room very regularly.
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