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Penn State Puts a Big Price on Its Image
By: Shawn Paul Wood
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There used to be a time when even non-football fans knew what a "Happy Valley" was. A while back, a "JoePa" used to convey images of joy and pride. However, since the tragic Jerry Sandusky child abuse scandal reared its ugly head at Penn State, there hasn't been that much smiling going on.

So, a bunch of bigwig Nittany Lions got together and came up with a solution: Penn State has decided to invest heavily in its future by hiring two PR firms, Edelman and La Torre Communications. This year, the firms will make $2.5 million that's $208,000 to you and me. 

According to the story from BusinessWeek:

Penn State says the firms will communicate with current and prospective students, alumni, faculty, staff, parents and media, as well as support the university throughout upcoming litigation.

I would think so, seeing how this once-heralded university incurred $7.5 million in legal expenses, $5.3 million of which was on crisis communications and an ex-FBI director sticking a legal probe where the sun doesn't shine. The Penn State Collegian reports that its college president Rodney Erickson said, "Hiring these communications firms will help retain accountability, openness and preserving our reputation as one of the world's leading research universities." 

Well, that's sweet. 

Hey, if I may impose what little PR acuity I have, a MEMO to the newly minted millionaire PR firms: Work on those talking points, okay? You see, it's the staggering ineptitude of said campus research that led to this brouhaha. 

Considering all the red flags that were waving on that campus for the past several years, outsiders of the adroit research department would think they were in North Korea or communist Russia. So, I suppose it's a good thing Penn State took out a loan to pay for those PR firms. They're already doing a bang-up job. Kudos.

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About the Author
Shawn Paul Wood is a hack-turned-flack with more than 20 years of collective journalism, copywriting and marketing communications experience. Shawn Paul is founder of Woodworks Communications in Dallas, Texas. If you need him, ping him here or follow him on Twitter @ShawnPaulWood
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