Why pause to sum up the PR lessons, so far, of so ugly a situation as the Jerry Sandusky scandal at Penn State University? Precisely because Penn State thought it was so good at public relations, and because top officials thought they were protecting the university by not referring the now-convicted Sandusky to the authorities. Penn State's conduct demonstrates that image and reputation aren't everything in PR. Truth and right-minded relationships are more basically important.
Carolyn Thomas' excellent post on her Ethical Nag blog, "Penn State's PR train wreck," got us thinking again about what happens when well-meaning people make ill-advised choices. It happens a lot, if not on the scale of Penn State; we bet you know some examples. "So let us consider," Carolyn writes, "how a respected institution and iconic college sports mecca like Penn State, led by its otherwise intelligent senior staff, chose really bad responses to these tragic events right from Day One..."
Yes, it's well worth reviewing the sordid sequence again to be reminded how central truth and right-minded relationships are to effective public relations. When former FBI director Louis Freeh's internal report on the Penn State situation comes out, there will likely be more to say about the situation. But it won't change the basics, truth and relationships... Keep them foremost, the core values that matter most.
Doug Bedell has a background in journalism and PR and is the owner of Resource Relations LLC in Central PA, focusing on organizational and crisis communication. He’s the community manager of SimplyFair.net, a social network on fairness. On the Web, Doug’s at www.ResourceRelations.com. On Twitter, he’s @DougBeetle.
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