What Were They Thinking? PaRt 2

Adubato_Crisis_LI’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?

46 thoughts on “What Were They Thinking? PaRt 2

  1. Erica Barnes

    Dr. Adubato could write an entire encyclopedia on crisis management. Between celebrity cases like Lindsay Lohan and Amanda Bynes and corporate crisis management with organizations like Penn State and BP, Adubato could build a writing empire full of case studies.

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  2. rcardno91

    Dr. Adubato would be better off starting a blog than writing another book because there seems be a new PR crisis every week. This post was written one month ago and you could already add Amanda Bynes, Reece Witherspoon and Rutgers’ latest gaffe to the list. There will always be a crisis to deal with in this business and the manner in which they are dealt with often determines the eventual success of the individual/organization involved.

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  3. Alex Packer

    WWTT was a very useful tool in my PR 101 class at Hofstra. As I commented on previous a blog post, now that I have received formal training in PR and crisis management it is nothing short of mind boggling that so many of these massive companies do such a poor job reacting to crises. The case with Carnival cruise lines is reminiscent of the Exxon-Valdeez scandal that Dr. Adubato covers in his first edition. The company CEO, or rather any spokesperson, was nowhere to be found in the days immediately following the crisis, taking a bad situation and multiplying it ten-fold. If a company shows a little sincerity and takes responsibility for their failings the public is often willing to accept it as a mistake and offer another chance. But when a massive, well funded company like Carnival or Exxon causes a tragedy and the proceeds to pretend it never happened, public outrage is sure to follow.

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  4. Jeremy Beck

    I think even though there have been plenty of PR crises since this book was published, what ultimately can be learned from this book spans any type of PR crisis. The important lesson to take from this book is that there are certain principals a PR specialist must live by in order to correctly deal with these problems, no matter when they occurred. The emergence of social media only added another tool to deal with these issues, if used correctly.

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  5. Brittni Hicks

    Chris Brown could DEFINITELY be added to the list of celebrities. And honestly, I would love to learn what a PR expert (is he an expert?) thinks could help Lindsay Lohan. As she was just reported running out of rehab (again), I don’t think there is any helping her public image…

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  6. aunaturalenyc

    I read this in one of my previous courses and thought it was really beneficial. Crisis PR isn’t so much a field of PR to me as it is a skill. Knowing how to react to situations and address the uncomfortable will only make you a better PR specialist. Seeing the different past circumstances and how we can learn from them, definitely helped me as a student.

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  7. Hunter F. (@kristintellsall)

    Luckily in all my classes we have gone over so many of these multiple times. Each one of them happening while I was in a major course. It’s hard to keep PR material such as textbooks so up to date because things are always occuring. It’s weird to think that all of these occured within the last 4 years. So much occurs, but on the flip side it makes me feel good to see PR is ALWAYS needed so finding a job to take care of people’s messes like these should be a little less difficult.

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  8. stevenpmorin

    This seems like a really interesting read. There really are way too many PR gaffes to list. I suppose the PR industry is alive and well if there are still celebrities and important figures are still doing such vile, shocking, or just plain stupid things.

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  9. Amanda Torres

    I haven’t read this book, but now I want to!! Crisis PR is very important, and as we all know we have A LOT of crises whether it’s with politicians, athletes, actors or musicians. I think Adubato can make as many volumes as he wants because there will always be a crises to talk about.

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  10. AndreaRebello

    I agree with the previous comments and also think that its time for Dr. Adubato to come out with another book. Dealing with crisis properly is one of the most important elements in maintaining a good reputation, and an overall strong relationship with the public. He should definitely mention Chris Brown & Rihanna, Miley Cyrus, Justin Bieber, and the Hurricane Sandy mess in his next edition.

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  11. Carrie Walker

    This year was most definitely filled with PR crises. I feel that history will often repeat itself and there will be much more material to fill a second book. I just hope that as professionals read these materials they use these unfortunate situations as a guide to know what not to do.

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  12. Shirley

    you havea pretty good list going on but there’s something that I jsut read this morning about a Mexican Barbie that is wearing traditional mesican garment, a chihuaha pet and a pasport. Some people are saying it’s racist. We’ll see what happens to mexican barbie! P.S. They made a peruvian incan princess back in the day which was prety popular. No compaints here!

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  13. Sasha Mirpuri

    I need to get that book. And, I think there have definitely been enough crisis for a part 2! Some of the ones I can come up with are the issues at Penn State, Dole’s recall of bagged salad because of the threat of getting Salmonella, Hurricane Sandy, etc.

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  14. Lola Odejobi

    Dr. Adubato can most definitely write another book with all the mess from Hurricane Sandy, the last Presidential election, and Rick Ross’s controversial rape lyrics. I want to get this book because it seems like something I will enjoy.

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  15. Kristen Kelly

    I also used this book in one of my PR classes and viewed a couple of the case studies. So much more has happened since the copyright of this one that yes, it may be time for another. I think when learning Crisis PR and using case studies, they should be up to date so that teachers who use this in their courses can have students relate and understand them better as they’ve lived through them. This current 2008 version was relevant to my generation of PR students and could probably last a couple more years, but a newer, up to date version with the most recent case studies will be due for upcoming PR students.

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  16. Kneekiki

    I read this book for one of my PR classes and enjoyed it very much. The new crises that you have listed are more than enough for a second edition. I am sure he is already working on it as we speak. I enjoyed his book and would definitely want to read the next if and when he publishes it.

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  17. Mia D'Angelo

    I read this book in my PR 101 class and still remember these examples like I read them yesterday. Crisis PR is a difficult field to be in and the PR professionals in it HAVE to handle stress extremely well, for that I give them credit. I honestly don’t know if I could handle that type of work environment. It is interesting look at the recent scandals. It seems in many cases the scandals have switched from many people, or companies to individuals; especially the teen/young adult age group. Social media also definitely plays a major role in almost all scandals nowadays. Miley Cyrus, Justin Beiber, Amanda Bynes etc. have all fallen victim to scandals tied to social media. The world around us is changing and in result so are the scandals we are witnesses so I am very interested to see what this next book has in store!

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  18. christineneumann

    Dr. Adubato certainly has his work cut out for him for volume two of WWTT. The recent case at Rutgers would also make a perfect case study for this. Along with the challenge of what case to choose, I also think Dr. Adubato would have to take a new look at social media and its part in creating and solving PR crises. I’d love to read what his take on the blackout at the superbowl and how citizens and companies alike used it to their amusement or advantage. Dr. Adubato really could write a book every year about the crises that go on, but I think Professor Morosoff’s list includes some big cases that cover all facets of business and culture that are in the psyche of the public today.

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  19. Alex Hyman

    Crisis PR is very important. It seems like everyone and everything is prone to doing something negative at some point and the the people who are able to come back from those mistakes are the people who have thought about what to do when something goes wrong. In sports, so many athletes are able to come back from negative images but there are still some who cannot. These people who still have negative images are because they failed in the way the handled their specific crisis.
    As others have written, each year there could be a new PR Crisis book with hundreds of new entries.

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  20. kerrischreiber

    There can probably be a new book written every year based on all of the scandals that go on! Each crisis could possibly even have their own book or documentary on how the story unfolded. Another book would be interesting to see these issues from the point of view of a PR professional. For example, the Rutgers scandal could have gone in multiple different ways leading people to go into crisis mode. It is a question whether they did the right thing by being honest up front and dealing with the consequences of firing multiple people, or would it have looked bad if the administrators, president and athletic director did not speak up in press conferences and admit that what happened was wrong. Scandals like this are most likely occurring for many sports teams but have not been openly spoken about or had leaked videos to prove they were wrong.

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  21. Brenna Harran

    This book definitely seems like it could be interesting! As you said, we’ve seen so many cases fail and crisis management is definitely most important. You watch all these bad things happen to well-known people and companies and as much as you want to see them succeed, some people still root for them to fail. I think your examples are all very current and important today. Like many said though, Chris Brown and Rihanna is something that is still talked about and maybe should be brought up.

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  22. Ian Poulos

    The most interesting aspect of crisis management is its transformation during the social media boom of the last ten years. In the past, it seems that crises reached the public at a much slower rate and companies had more time to react. Today, people have become so acclimated to the rapid-fire nature of Twitter and other similar services that the public expects the same reaction time from organizations. Of course, there are pros and cons to holding companies to a higher standard and requiring them to facilitate constant interactions with the public, but social media can create a national issue within minutes that a company is then expected to react to instantaneously. As a result, I believe that social media has created a greater necessity for hiring a crisis management team that can be ready to react within a moment’s notice.

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  23. Diane R

    A second book would be very interesting and I would love it read it especially because I am interested in crisis PR. It could contain updated information about more resent crisis’ such as Chris Brown and Drake’s fight at a NYC club, Chris Brown and Rihanna and the Kardashians. Those are just some examples Dr. Adubato could write about so I definitely feel like he has enough information to write another book.

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  24. Shurida Lundi

    I’ve recently been interested in celebrity PR crisis lately and it is crazy how a PR crisis team for companies and people are needed. So many companies and celebrities go through trouble frequently and sometimes they have not been able to come out of their problems successfully. I actually want to read this book to hear more about crisis issues. But a new book is in order, LIPA, Chris Brown, Carnival Cruise, Lindsay Lohan and so much more need to be added to this book.

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  25. Jenny Rowe

    I think a second book would be very interesting. There are so many new examples of crisis management PR, good and bad. A great example I had the opportunity to learn more about a the PRSSA conference was the BP spill, which was interesting to learn about as well as informative for my potential career.

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  26. gionnacerniglia

    I never really knew much about Crisis PR until after the PRSSA convention when the speaker had talked about his experiences with it. I found it so interesting that I was even thinking about changing my career path to Crisis PR. I am curious to reading this book it sounds so interesting and I think it would be great to start a second book from Dr. Adubato.

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  27. Helen Masha

    A second book would definitely be an interesting read. A few cases that come to mind is Chick-Fil-A bashing the gay community, Mitt Romney’s women in binders and 47% blunder, Chris Brown and Rihanna, Charlie Sheens massive meltdown, and many other celebrity mishaps. There is no question there is a lesson to be learned in all of these cases!

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  28. aciardullo

    Crisis PR is a critical and essential field. More than one book could definitely be written. There is always some form of drama/crisis happening today. Some may be obvious and some you may have to do a little research for but it is all there. I think your list is great; Chris Brown/Rihanna, Amanda Bynes and the Kardashians are all good additions too.

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  29. LucieSorel

    The crisis PR field seems very intense and drama filled. I don’t know if I could handle working in it but it is very exciting to read about and watch unfold in the media. The way LIPA handled Hurricane Sandy is an example of this crisis management. People all over the island were actively experiencing terrible living conditions due to the company’s ill preparations. This is a unique example because the crisis was not just affecting one person or organizations, rather an entire population. The company will have to do a lot to repair their negative image at this stage.

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  30. Marissa Dombkowski

    I would love to read this book. I think that crisis communication is so interesting and it’s a great way to learn by looking at cases and seeing how these organizations and companies handled these issues. I do agree that a new book could be made as new crises are abundant. I had the experience of being right in the middle of a crisis when I interned at Sesame Workshop. Kevin Clash, the puppeteer of the beloved character Elmo, was involved in a sex scandal on multiple accounts and ended up resigning from his position. I got to see exactly how PR professionals at the Workshop handled (are are still are handling) this crisis.

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  31. Lauren Ciuzio

    These are all great examples. More to add may be the recent Amanda Bynes scandals, the IKEA meatballs, all of the Kardashian scandals, etc. I think Dr. Adubato has plenty of material to write a new book with, and he should because stories like these are an easy read, kind of like tabloids, so a lot of people would be interested and learn something at the same time.

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  32. Beckett Mufson

    I think that crisis PR is awesome, and that his next book should have 150% more sunglasses and 200% more explosions in the background.

    But in all seriousness, crisis PR is important, and the advent and evolution of social media and the culture of transparency definitely necessitate an update in Adubato’s analysis.

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  33. bluelenex

    Totally spot on. You forgot Rhianna and Chris Brown… as well as Kim Kardashian’s 72 day marriage and the rumors about arsenic in apple juice. Crisis happens more than we think and sometimes more than we notice and, when you step back an analyze it, it’s amazing what crisis PR agents accomplish during crisis situations. We only really notice scandals when they either go un-fixed or blow up in everyone’s faces. There are so many other scandals that were handled properly that we’ll never focus on because who really wants to analyze a perfectly executed crisis PR plan when you have so many more interesting ones that failed??

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  34. ejm1059

    Yes! So many juicy PR faux pas since 2008. He could write 2 books if he wanted. There is the issue with Miss Teen America after Miss Rhode Island’s sex tape leaked, Donald Trump’s entire existence, The Boy Scouts of America, etc. People mention Lindsay Lohan but isn’t that more on her than her PR? I’m sure that even with a solid PR plan she still would be a mess. PR can only do so much.

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  35. Sarah Caruso

    These are all great examples. Others that I can think of are, of course, Chris Brown and Rihanna, Prince Harry, the story about the football and the fake girlfriend (can’t remember the guy’s name), Ikea and their Swedish meatballs, and Charlie Sheen. Dr. Adubato definitely has enough material to make a new book and I think it would be very beneficial to, not just people in PR, but all people.

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  36. nikkigyftopoulos

    Crisis management is huge aspect of PR professional’s job. Mistakes happen and things do not always go as planned for companies, organizations, or famous people. This makes it even more important for PR people to be included in the management function of their clients. PR people need to be able to give advice and gain background about their company so they can plan for crisis control. Many organizations lack this aspect and then are faced with disaster when a crisis occurs. WWTT sounds like a very interesting and beneficial book to read for any PR-interested person. However, it is clear, by just looking at the list you create of new crises, that a second book needs to be written. In addition to the list you created, I would include IKEA’s horse meat scandal and Chick-fil-A’s bashing of gay marriage.

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  37. gmcillo

    It is defiantly time for Dr. Adubato to write another case study book. The examples that you used are perfect for an updated book. Another example that can be added to the list is Amanda Bynes and her recent explicate tweets and pictures. It could show how a celebrity can ruin his or her own reputation and how her PR cant even helped because she fired them all.

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  38. alexis gionesi

    The first thing that popped into my head while reading this was Chris Brown. I would hate to do PR for him. Also Tom Cruise hasn’t had the best rep lately. I’m sure there are a ton more but the ones you mentioned are definitely the most significant.

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  39. Amanda Daley

    I think all of these are strong examples. One that i thought of when I was reading through the list was the Chris Brown and Rihanna abuse case that raised many concerns in the media.

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  40. blarouche

    I think that all of the examples that you listed are great examples of crisis PR. For celebrities though, I think a big one that you missed was Charlie Sheen. I can’t imagine having to manage the PR for him during his meltdown. I think that now is a great time for another book from Dr. Adubato.

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  41. EMC

    I would add to that list, anything having to do with Hurricane Sandy. When it comes to crisis that involve communities and everyday life, I think it is increasingly important because it teaches us how to deal with people on the most human level, utilizing social media as a communication tool.

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  42. aspenc6

    I definitely agreed with all of the crisis communication nightmares you mentioned! I would add to the list Mitt Romney’s 47 percent comment during his run for the Presidency and Susan G. Koman’s Planned Parenthood debacle (which was interesting because people backlashed against an organization that usually does so much good). As for Hollywood, I would have to suggest Amanda Baynes, another starlet, like Lindsay, who has fallen from grace. I think you’ve pretty much covered the rest!

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  43. ccorte6

    I think all those examples would be great material for another case study book. However, I’d like to add Hurricane Sandy to that list as well. LIPA dealt with this crisis terribly, and Cuomo just used them as a scapegoat. All around it was, and still is, a mess.

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  44. janabanana12

    If Dr. Adubato was to write another PR crisis book, I think all of these examples would suffice. What has been shown is there is crisis with people, with organizations, and with products, and though each must be handled within circumstance, most PR crisis control will be handled in the same formatted way. There could be failures and there could be successes, but as long as there is PR damage control being done, then there is a reason to be added to the book.

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  45. Claire T.

    I’m surprised you didn’t mention the horse meat outbreak in the UK or Chris Brown and his antics. There have definitely been a lot of new PR cases that Dr. Adubato could use if he’d like to make a second volume of the book.

    Reply

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