Ronn Torossian, CEO, 5WPR
With only one month until the end of this year, along with this decade, we can look back and easily talk about significant events that have plagued this decade. Especially when it comes to PR crises, thanks to the prevalent use of social media these days. Whether we look back and talk about the worst oil spill that has ever happened or the numerous hacking scandals, there’s plenty of situations that we can analyze and learn from.
But let’s not look too far into the past, and instead, try looking at a more recent PR crisis – the college admissions scandal.
When it first came out that certain famous people, such as actresses Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin had secretly been bribing various school officials so that their children would have a guaranteed entry spot into ivy league universities, everyone was talking about it. It was the trending topic around the world for weeks.
However, some of those people were a lot more prepared to handle this situation than others. Such was the case for actress Lori Loughlin, who ended up setting the wrong tone when the news first landed on the front pages of newspapers around the country.
Because when she was supposed to show up to her court appointment, due to a very serious crime, she started giving her autograph to people. And that’s certainly not the way a PR crisis should be handled. Perhaps her end goal with her attitude was to signalize that she was very confident that the entire court case would go smoothly, and there would be no trouble for her.
But the people in their homes, whose children had been trying to get into these universities through the normal application processes and were getting denied, saw it as an insult. The parents, the potentially denied students as well as the entire room of people in the court she was supposed to face that day were not happy. Her casual demeanor before the world and the court was an insult to many.
Unlike Loughlin, Huffman almost immediately started her apology and remained humble during the entire ordeal. And people were a lot quicker in forgiving her for it, unlike with Loughlin.
So what can be learned from this PR scandal?
The answer is fairly straightforward. Everyone should be taking any type of legal proceeding in a serious manner. And whenever there’s any type of legal dispute, companies and brands should be careful of the way that they appear to the public during those times.
What the actress did ended up making the audience think that everything they previously believed about celebrity culture and rich folks was true – they don’t have to play by the regular rules, and they are the exception. It’s important for everyone involved to know themselves – along with how the rest of the world sees them. That way, everyone can present themselves and the situation accordingly.
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