Friday Perspective: The Association of PR with Corporate Scandals

Every Friday I give quick perspectives, opinions and thoughts on the world of marketing and beyond. This week’s entry is below.

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As the events of the NFL/Ray Rice situation unfolded on Monday and into Tuesday, I kept seeing a dominant opinion surface, both from mainstream media and friends - they did it for the PR. “It” in this case being the indefinite suspension the NFL levied against Rice. The belief I saw from many was that maybe the NFL didn’t necessarily want to give him a such a severe punishment. After all, if they did, they would’ve investigated the situation much further, found the video of him brutally hitting his then fiancee and knocking her unconscious, and given him appropriate punishment at that time rather than the slap on the hand two game suspension commissioner Roger Goodell originally gave him. After that video became public and they received lots of criticism, only then did the harsher punishment come.

Before I go further, this isn’t going to be one of those posts taking a current news story and dissecting it from a PR perspective...

Seeing all the comments about Goodell giving the ban because of PR purposes (and I agree he gave it for PR purposes), it got me to thinking about how often the PR industry takes a hit in instances of corporate mistrust. Ironically, in the Ray Rice situation, PR did not take a hit. Roger Goodell took the full hit for this one - as he should (though oddly enough, Goodell is a former PR guy).

How many times does a corporation make a mistake and the narrative turns to the big PR blunder they made? Or people start to wonder where a company’s PR people were when they made a huge mistake? It’s very common and I’m surprised we haven’t heard that in connection with this week’s NFL blunder(s), though with the public’s general mistrust and anger toward Goodell even before this incident, maybe it’s not all that surprising.

When news of corporate blunders evolve to blaming the PR people, it’s always a disappointment for me. I’ve worked with many, many PR people throughout my career and 99% of them always take a very ethical approach to their work. Often when there’s a “PR crisis,” it’s not the fault of the actual PR team, but others within the organization. The PR team usually provides the right counsel, or whatever is the best, most ethical guidance given what’s happened, but it’s not the PR team that has the final decision on those matters. It’s a CEO, CMO or corporate board. Just as this week, everything was ultimately Roger Goodell’s decision. Something to think about the next time we hear about a corporate scandal.

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Why do so many sports broadcasters and journalists have Twitter handles that include their employer’s name?

Colin Cowherd (@ESPN_Colin), Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine), Pat Forde (@YahooForde), and Jay Crawford (@jaycrawfordespn) are a just a few examples, but there are many, many more.

Do these people think they’ll never leave their current job? That’s extremely unlikely. In fact, of the above people, Pat Forde has already switched jobs since the mainstream emergence of Twitter (leaving ESPN for Yahoo in 2011). And yes, he had to change his Twitter handle when he did so.

While the examples I mentioned were all national journalists, the employer in the handle trend seems especially dominant at a local level. Nearly every journalist’s goal is to work at the most widely viewed network or publisher, so these local people may have to change handles pretty often as they work their way up.

Why not just use your name or some variation of it? You’re establishing yourself, not your employer. You don’t need to give extra visibility to your employer. When conducting employee engagement trainings, I always tell clients that the employees should use handles specific to themselves that don’t include the company name. Sure, you can change the handle, but why? It’s your handle, not your employer’s.

For what it’s worth, there are some sports journalists who do simply use their own name - Kirk Herbstreit, Stephen A. Smith, Skip Bayless, and Colleen Dominguez are good examples.

This post is syndicated from its original publishing on LinkedIn.