Felony Stupidity

Can this go wrong? Let me count the ways. Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

Can this go wrong?
Let me count the ways.

Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

If stupidity were a crime, our jails would be a lot more crowded than they are.

Of course, we’re referring to things people do and say, not to the individuals themselves. These folks may be otherwise intelligent.

From the perspective of Crisis PR, they’re either getting bad advice. Getting good advice and ignoring it. Or not seeking advice at all because they presume they know what they’re doing.

Consider Southern celebrity chef Paula Deen, who told different stories about racial slurs in her deposition and a TV interview. Or disgraced former KPMG partner Scott London, who — after he was caught with his hand in the cookie jar — insisted he was just trying to help a friend even though he was receiving expensive gifts for giving inside information about clients. Or then-Congressman Todd Akin, who suggested women who are raped needn’t worry about pregnancy because their bodies have mechanisms to “shut that whole thing down.”

More recently, there’s the news team at a San Francisco Bay Area TV station who fell prey to a prank and broadcast fake, racially offensive names of the four pilots of an Asiana Airlines jetliner that clipped a seawall before skidding to a fiery stop on the runway. Three people died.

The fake names allegedly came from “a trusted source” — the last refuge of shoddy journalists — then were confirmed by a now-former summer intern at the NTSB in Washington who didn’t get the joke. Nobody at the TV station got it either, and they aired the names verbally and in a graphic — Sum Ting Wong, Wi To Low, Ho Lee Fuk, and Bang Ding Ow.

To make it even messier, Asiana briefly considered suing the TV station for damage to its reputation. Which would have been an over-reaction. Sometimes it’s better to just take a deep breath, insist on an apology, and let the story die as quickly as possible. Besides, stupidity still isn’t a valid legal cause of action.

In Crisis & Reputation Management, there’s a basic rule of thumb. Always ask, Can this go wrong? The answer, Let me count the ways.

P.S. As much as we enjoy writing about what’s interesting to us, our ultimate goal is to help you navigate PR crises that affect your business and your clients.

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Gillott Communications is a Los Angeles-based public relations firm that specializes in high-stakes Crisis & Reputation Management. If you don’t already subscribe, please sign up for our blog Insights on High-Stakes PR. You can reach Roger Gillott directly at 310-826-8696.

Insights on High-Stakes PR. You can reach Roger Gillott directly at 310-826-8696.


One thought on “Felony Stupidity

  1. These are all high-profile people who could have spent a few dollars and a few moments on professional guidance that would have avoided the entire situation. I think a lot of these people start drinking their own Kool-Aid, reading their own press clippings, and think they can’t be touched. That’s, I think, when they “get stupid.”

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