A must-read on PR blunders

Steve Adubato’s fabulous book, “What Were They Thinking? Crisis Communication: The Good, the Bad and the Totally Clueless,” is incomplete. In fact, since its 2008 publication, this extraordinarily readable and informative primer on 22 crisis case studies, the world has witnessed countless PR blunders, not the least of which were Penn State’s pedophilia scandal and BP’s Gulf region oil spill.

These major events aren’t in the book.  But some infamous cases of awful events and their subsequent public relations disasters are.  The Exxon Valdez case is there.  So are Virginia Tech, the Glen Ridge and Duke University rape cases, and the Hurricane Katrina/FEMA mess.  A few professional scandals include the Don Imus “nappy-headed ho” incident, the Dick Cheney hunting accident and a chapter on Bill O’Reilly’s mouth. PR crisis success stories are in Adubato’s book as well, such as Prudential’s terror threat and the always heralded handling of the Johnson & Johnson/Tylenol scare.

My good friend, PR mentor and now teaching colleague Bert Cunningham turned me on to “What Were They Thinking.” If you’re a PR veteran, a newbie or just want a good read, pick it up and learn from other people’s mistakes.  I’m hoping for a revised edition, packed with some of the many PR messes and successes of the last for years.  I wonder which of them Adubato would include.  Your thoughts?

4 thoughts on “A must-read on PR blunders

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  2. Bert Cunningham

    Thank you Jeff for your generous comments. I appreciate them and appreciate how you mentored me through my recent Hofstra assignment.

    Adubato’s book is a classic that should be read by everyone in PR. And there’s plenty for a new edition, as you say, I’d add the Facebook/NASDAQ fiasco to the list. Among other things, the president of NASDAQ got caught up in the IPO hype by being in California to remotely ring the trading bell. When the stuff hit the fan he was on a flight East and could not be reached to help sort through the problem. Talk about no keeping one’s eye on the ball.

    Steve could also do a volume on the long-term communications efforts involved in some of the crisis situations he wrote about. Reputations are not restored in just a few months. Sometimes it takes years of hard work and good solid PR to regain the public’s trust.



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