AT&D #22. Public Relations in the News

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Watching the videos of the Jerry Sandusky interview and a story involving the MassWildlife official, what PR advice would you have given Sandusky, Dr. Deblinger and Deblinger’s boss?

The PR advice that I would give Sandusky first and foremost is to refrain from sounding “suspicious.” Immediately, one minute into the interview, Sandusky tells Costas that he is innocent and follows up with, “Well you could say that I have done some of those things [referring to the allegations].” That to me was worded poorly and is going to make Sandusky look like he is admitting wrongdoing when he is trying to defend himself. The media can easily tear him apart for those words alone.

One other advice I can give is avoiding being at a loss for words/not giving a thoughtful answer such as the line, “I don’t know you’d have to ask him.” Sandusky said this when he was asked what were the motivations of a suspect lying with regards to an alleged act of sexual confrontation that he was part of. Sandusky not admitting to why this exchange had taken place obviously tells the audience that he is hiding something and wants to quickly frame someone else and put the pressure of off him.

As for Dr. Deblinger, what ensued was a classic case of “I don’t have anything to say/I’m unable to talk about that”/walk, look down, and not talk, etc.” The silent treatment was what specifically occurred and is especially damaging to one’s public perception of them. By not responding to any of your questions (and maybe perhaps ending the story right there), the investigation had to go to the next level where his dishonest lifestyle became very public—more than it should have been. Either way, PR advice would be to answer questions and refrain from continuing the suspicious activities as doing so (seemingly so carelessly) is more bait for reporters to catch up on and find answers the other way.

Regarding Deblinger’s boss, it was clear that he was embarrassed and showed this by pausing frequently and not knowing what to say to defend the integrity of his company or himself for being responsible for an employee such as Deblinger. My advice for him could have been to owe up to his irresponsibility of supervising Deblinger more confidently and upfront as doing the opposite (as he did) now made the public wary of the ineptitude of how supervisors and managers can really be (not exclusive to this company only, but perhaps all).

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