I’ve had many of my students read and review What Were They Thinking?: Crisis Communication — the Good, the Bad, and the Totally Clueless, a book written by Steve Adubato, Ph.D. It’s a fabulous collection of 22 brief and significant case studies on how organizations and individuals have failed (or have sometimes been successful) at dealing with their very public crises. From the Duke University “rape” case to FEMA and Katrina to the Johnson & Johnson Tylenol scare, WWTT is as good a study on crisis PR as any textbook I’ve seen. I’ve recommended this book here before.
However, WWTT was published in 2008 and so many significant PR debacles have happened since. In fact, as I was watching the scandal at Rutgers University unfold this week, I began to jot down a list of such events; there are more than enough new case studies to fill a second edition.
From the athletics world, in addition to Rutgers’ abusive basketball coach we had Tiger Woods’ fall from grace, Lance Armstrong’s greater fall from grace, and the horrific sex crimes at Penn State. From politics there were Congressman Anthony Weiner’s naked tweets, Governor Mark Sanford’s mysterious “disappearance” and Congressman Todd Akin’s “legitimate rape” theory. From business we saw Toyota fixing its brakes, Carnival Cruise lines unable to fix its boats, and BP’s CEO telling a reporter how he “wants his life back.” And from Hollywood: Charlie Sheen, Mel Gibson, Lindsey Lohan, Justin Beiber and so many others have had very public meltdowns that have sullied their images and threatened their careers.
And that’s just to name a few. So get crackin’, Dr. Adubato! Another PR crisis book is waiting to be written and you’ve got lots of material to work with. I’ll leave it to my readers to review my initial list and suggest other subject matter for your chapters. OK, readers… your thoughts?