It's hard to imagine what brand of public relations Penn State University is teaching if it's not the one holding that one of PR's functions is to alert an organization to how it's appearing in the news media, favorably or otherwise. Many PR departments send around daily press packets, or whatever distribution mode is being used now. Surely if you're the executive vice president and provost, you'd get one, or would be reading the paper yourself.
Yet Penn State's new president, Rodney Erickson, who was advanced from the second-ranked post when former President Graham Spanier was dismissed in November as the Jerry Sandusky case erupted, says that was the first he'd heard of the matter, not when The (Harrisburg) Patriot-News reported last March on a grand jury investigation into child abuse allegations against Sandusky.
"It seems you were caught off guard by something when there was months and months of warning," a reporter asked Erickson at the press conference to announce Bill O'Brien as Penn State's new football coach on Saturday. "There were, I would think nearly all individuals at the university, including me," Erickson responded, "were not aware of any of this until we read it in the grand jury presentment, so how would we have known?"
Well, gee. There ought, as they say, to "be systems in place..." We'd bet that Penn State's PR/communications faculty knows what they are. Any organization worth it's relational salt wants to protect itself from dire surprises. Or should.
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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