Would You Perform PR for Penn State?
“Who in the world would perform PR for Penn State?” That’s the response I received from one friend upon telling her the name of the PR firm representing Penn State during its ongoing crisis.
No doubt, the most talented and capable PR firm would have its hands full trying to contain and mend the deep damage recently done to Penn State’s reputation. But the implication in my friend’s response reflected more than the difficulty of the job. The implication was that there’s a moral problem representing an institution associated with such an unspeakable tragedy.
The extreme and devastating case of Penn State aside, PR firms are approached for help every day by organziations mired in serious scandal. What criteria should guide the decision to represent an organization where a measure of culpability is undisputed? There are no easy answers to this question, and each client must be considered on a case-by-case basis. Instead of answers, here are a few questions responsible PR firms should consider:
- How pervasive was the wrongdoing?
- How egregious and reprehensible was the wrongdoing?
- Is the organization currently concealing the truth?
- Is the organization currently protecting guilty individuals?
- Is the organization as a whole (which, in Penn State’s case, includes dedicated staff, alumni and thousands of students) worth saving?
- Does the organization have a genuine desire to communicate transparency and accountability?
- Does the organization need professional help (i.e. PR firm) to accurately and convincingly tell its story to the public?
- Can we help the organization responsibly address and move beyond the current crisis?
- In what ways would representing the organization reflect poorly upon our firm or negatively impact our firm’s reputation?
Based on these questions, would you perform PR for Penn State?