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.
What’s the greatest challenge you face when dealing with crises?
Have more than one? Ask ’em all. If your question isn’t in the list below, add it under “Other.”
“Because Reputation Is Your Most Valuable Asset”
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.