Crisis PR and avoiding the “Cosby Crisis”

This year was one of many changes. Perhaps one of the most formidable, however, was Bill Cosby’s unthinkable fall from sainthood once the news of several sexual abuse allegations began circulating.

According to Time, 16 women have accused Cosby of sexual abuse with 12 of these women reporting that he drugged them to do so. This is not the first time Cosby has been accused. In a 2005 trial, 13 women anonymously testified against Cosby in a sexual abuse case that was later settled out of court, according to Time. So why does everyone care 10 years later?

Comedian Hannibal Buress featured the household name’s allegations in his stand-up routine in October and social media exploded with responses according to The Holmes Report. It did not take long for more women, including past accuser Barbara Bowman, to speak with the media on the subject.

Since the initial blow, Cosby and his team of lawyers have released numerous denials and usually refuse to speak about the allegations with the media according to Time. The closest Cosby came to elaborating was when he told a Florida newspaper that, “a guy doesn’t have to answer to innuendos.”

Cosby’s civil rights lawyer, Gloria Allred, suggested a last resort strategy for the comedian. Allred said Cosby should consider waiving the statute of limitations that prohibits the women from filing lawsuits against him according to NBC News. Allred even suggested that Cosby establish a $100 million victims fund for those appearing before a panel of retired judges to determine the substantiation of their claims and how victims should be compensated NBC News reported.

Allred has a point. If Cosby has nothing to hide, why has he chosen to represent himself so poorly in front of the media? The blanket silence has only given fuel for suspense in the case of Bill Cosby. The biggest nightmare in PR is when the perception of your crisis has become worse the actual case.

According to The Holmes Report, there is little hope saying, “Cosby’s in too deep, for too long, with too many allegations against him, to survive and nothing has happened since this story broke to indicate resurrection or even rehabilitation.” The Cosby crisis demonstrates how the digital age has created a whole new rule book of brand transparency according to The Holmes Report. With one share or like a person can take a small message and reach thousands in seconds. In Cosby’s case, one woman’s story gained enough followers to encourage others to come forward as well. Perhaps this explains the curious delay in victim reaction. Maybe they simply lacked the tools to be heard.

Cosby’s story also teaches organizations that the digital age holds no secrets. Everything comes to light in the end. The best way to handle these crisis when they are resurrected is with immediate, thoughtful transparency.

Dolce & Gabbana’s Gay Family Comments out of Style: Why Elton John Boycotts D&G

In a recent interview with Italian magazine, Panorama, Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana promoted their spring line “Viva la mamma.” However, it wasn’t their spring collection that made headlines.

According to Forbes, the two openly gay designers discussed their views on the “classic” family and described their opposition to “chemical children” and a “rented uterus.”  Dolce said in the interview, “Wombs for rent, sperm chosen from a catalogue … psychiatrists are not ready to confront the effects of this experimentation,” according to The Guardian. He also said that he could not and would not have a child because he is gay. The interview made huge waves in the LGBT community, with Elton John and Ryan Murphy, the creator of Glee, at the head of the campaign.

According to The Guardian, John took to Twitter and Instagram to voice his anger at Dolce and Gabbana saying, “How dare you refer to my beautiful children as “synthetic”. And shame on you for wagging your judgemental little fingers at IVF – a miracle that has allowed legions of loving people, both straight and gay, to fulfil their dream of having children. Your archaic thinking is out of step with the times, just like your fashions. I shall never wear Dolce and Gabbana ever again. #BoycottDolceGabbana.”

The hashtag went viral after celebrities such as Courtney Love caught wind of the boycott. According to The Guardian, Love posted to her Twitter, “I just round up all my Dolce & Gabbana items and want to burn them. I’m just beyond words and…” Flavio Romani, president of Arcigay (Italy’s LGBT right’s organization) also criticized the interview saying “Their position is absolutely personal and it contradicts the global movement for adoption and gay rights. Gay people have the right to be considered equal to others, in bringing up a child,” Romani told the Guardian.

Dolce and Gabbana issued separate statements on Monday according to Ragan’s PR Daily, “We firmly believe in democracy and the fundamental principle of freedom of expression that upholds it. We talked about our way of seeing reality, but it was never our intention to judge other people’s choices,” said Gabbana.

Dolce issued a similar statement according to Ragan’s PR Daily saying, “I’m Sicilian and I grew up in a traditional family, made up of a mother, a father and children. I am very well aware of the fact that there are other types of families and they are as legitimate as the one I’ve known. But in my personal experience, family had a different configuration.”

Dolce & Gabbana certainly got themselves in a pickle. This paracrisis is a reputational crisis in which the designers allowed their personal opinions reflect the brand. This is also known as organizational venting. According to Dr. W. Timothy Coombs of the University of Central Florida, “Paracrisis is primarily a reputational threat.” However, just because there wasn’t a D&G blouse with an exploding button, does not mean that #BoycottDolceGabbana should be taken lightly.

This paracrisis has several important factors at work. Firstly, the designers were born and raised Italian. They are going to have different perspectives on just about everything compared to Americans. This means family life too. Secondly, according to The Guardian, “the tight-knit family has been a staple of Italian branding and advertising for decades.” Thirdly, the designers have been promoting their new collection “Viva la mamma,” a fashion campaign Dolce said is “aimed at encouraging families to stick together.”

Now, do I think D&G could have prevented this social media nightmare? Absolutely. However, I do not think that the two should be chastised via boycott for voicing their personal opinions. As two of the most influential gay men today, they should have considered the repercussions their words would bring from the LGBT community and worked with their marketing and public relations team to ensure they were reflecting the brand’s new spring line not their opinions on the gay family. This is where the tables turned for Dolce and Gabbana.

The overall response from Dolce & Gabbana was adequate but it could have been more effective. The three most important things in crisis management are timing, victim focus and misinformation. Had they employed all three more effectively through a faster public response, emphasizing their regret at hurting the LGBT community, and highlighting that they were not attacking other ways of life only voicing how they feel towards their own; I think the social media buzz would have died away with less damage to the company’s reputation.

The lack of Twitter response from the designers also was a poor choice primarily because it is easier to do and do well than to remain silent. A Twitter response would have allowed for the designers to diffuse a lot of pressure and force Elton John to share the social media stage. I think it is always better to safe than sorry. A well-crafted tweet would have allowed the designers to respond in a quick, clear and concise manner. Never underestimate the power of 140 characters.

Gender Wage Gaps in the U.S. and in public relations

Few things have struck me as strange in 2015 (minus Katy Perry’s half-time show) than the fact that I did not still think women generally got paid more than men. I’m just being an honest millennial here. This is not to say that I thought the gender wage gap was extinct, however, I was certainly under the impression it was rapidly closing in.

I don’t know what scares me more: the idea that when I graduate from college I will probably be paid less than my male counterparts, or that this was a subject I was vastly undereducated about. As a young woman in a female-dominated field, this news is especially alarming.

According to Business Insider, all working women over 25 can expect to make 80% of what their male counterparts make. I felt like I was re-watching Mad Men again. Is this the extent of progress in the United States? The Wells Fargo study mentioned in Business Insider illustrates the causes of the trends in the gender wage gap. The study concluded that millennial men participation in the labor force has decreased while millennial women participation has remained about the same. It found that societal expectations also influenced the wage gap. Women are expected to care for the household and are unable to work as many hours as men in the same field. The study found that women predominantly choose to work in lower-paid fields as well.

Does this information tell me that I’ll be fine in my industry? After all, 63% of public relations “specialists” are women according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data. The answer is no. According to The Atlantic, however, this may be the first problem women in public relations are facing.

It is not a surprise when you walk into a mass communication class and see a wave of chatty young women with a sprinkling of a few young. Why is it that a majority of young women pursue this degree? This is where the wage gap also plays a role. Many women pursue careers in public relations because it pays better than other female-dominated industries. People are naturally going to gravitate where they know they can benefit. According to The Atlantic, it is also due to the false notions of female aptitudes. If women are expected to be naturally talkative, cheery, multitaskers, why wouldn’t you want to enter into profession that uses these skills? That sounds more like human nature than female preference. The existing wage gap in an industry like public relations illustrates how societal norms play a large role in the problem.

These two articles pushed me to ask about what the country was doing to fix this problem. According to Pew Research Center, the “Paycheck Fairness Act” proposed in 2014 by President Obama and Democrats aimed to bridge this gap between men and women. There is even an “Equal Pay Day” on April 8th to illustrate how far into the new year women have to work to make the same amount the average man made in the previous year. America sees the problem, but what are we doing about it?

The issue lies in societal expectations of women. Women are expected to be do-it-all Moms who work a 40-hour week, drop the kids off at soccer practice and make dinner every night. If men were held to the same standards, there would be a decline in their wages as well. We have recognized the problem. Now is the time to change how people see women in the workforce. Whether that be through making even more industries like public relations or just changing a national viewpoint, or simply changing a national identity.

Is the “Deflate Gate” Argument Under inflated Too?

You would think with Super Bowl Sunday quickly approaching the nation would be buzzing about the highly anticipated match up between the New England Patriots and the Seattle Seahawks. However instead, public debate has centered on the AFC Championship Game and the Patriots’ victory over the Indianapolis Colts.

It was reported by ABC News last Friday that the NFL acknowledged that the Patriots used under inflated footballs for the first half of the AFC Championship Game. How does this just happen? According to the New York Post, it was reported that the locker room attendant allegedly transported footballs from the officials’ locker room to a separate area on his way to the field. This news not only could tarnish the squeaky clean image of the Patriots’ star quarterback, Tom Brady, but could also put Coach Belichick in the hot seat again. Belichick was fined $250,000 for spying on an opponent’s defensive signals back in 2007.

Robert Kraft, the owner of the New England Patriots, quickly came to Brady’s and Belichick’s defense during a press conference Monday saying, “I want to make it clear that I believe unconditionally that the New England Patriots have done nothing inappropriate in this process or in violation of NFL rules,” according to The New York Post. Kraft also went on to say that when the investigation ended he fully expected an apology from the NFL for what the team has had to endure the last week.

The NFL has had a multitude of bad publicity in the last five years. The Aaron Hernandez murder trials and the Ray Rice scandals especially have been damaging to the league. In an effort to clean up their image, I can only expect that the NFL would take every precaution in a controversy like this.

However, Forbes writer Matthew Kory presents an interesting perspective to this scandal that really puts the story into perspective. In the article Kory argues that “Deflate gate” would not be capturing America’s attention if not for the NFL overreacting in response to public and media pressure. He cites the absence of media in deciding the baseball steroid use catastrophe, the Lance Armstrong ordeal, and many others. Among all the chaos of air pressure and cheating this week, Kory’s article provides much needed context to better understand the controversy.

As a public relations student, I think the NFL was right in reacting promptly to the situation. However, I do not think they should have let the media take the situation and run with it. The NFL should know by now that bad media for any NFL team is bad media for the league itself. Throwing Brady or Belichick under the bus only makes the NFL look weak. The Patriots also had strong points in their defense. The press conference was a good idea to help shed some light on the situation. However, it seems that Belichick was only interested in finding someone to blame as well. I think the best strategy would have been to say that the Patriots are taking these allegations seriously, this behavior is not condoned by our team and that they appreciate the cooperation of the NFL as they investigate the problem. I do not think at any point they should have to apologize for something no one can prove they did. But the overall defensive vibe coming from Kraft and Belichick only makes the team appear shadier. Is using underinflated footballs cheating? Absolutely. Should America completely destroy the New England Patriots over air pressure? Come on guys.

Starbucks’ digital brand


Throughout Starbucks’ recent marketing strategies they have kept one thing constant. They seem to prefer keeping the content simple, appetizing, and direct. They’re latest campaigns have also been centered on the revealing of new products such as the new Flan latte. Starbucks is also garnering attention for their somewhat recent social media spark. They have been consistently advertising their app on sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Through this transmedia convergence they link with each other and promote through prizes, discounts, and interconnectivity with their followers. An area they are overlooking, however, is their depth. Reaching out to their customers is great. Creating and consistently promoting their products is even better. However, as a consumer I do not believe in their “why” as Simon Sinkek’s “golden circle theory” points out. Why does Starbucks do what they do? Why is their coffee the one I should pick? As of now, it is just a matter of social currency. The Starbucks brand would be unstoppable if they brainstormed their company’s “why” and incorporated it into their online marketing strategy.