Pointing fingeRs

      63 Comments on Pointing fingeRs
Kathleen Sebelius taking blame at a Congressional hearing

Kathleen Sebelius taking blame at a Congressional hearing

When something goes wrong, our first instinct is to point fingers and place blame.  Such is the case with the technical mess associated with the roll out of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, or “Obamacare.”

This was an awful week for President Obama.  The rollout of the health care law has been an unmitigated disaster and could not have been more ill-timed.  Just a few days after winning political points by refusing to yield to the pressure of a threatened government shutdown over Obamacare, its web site launched and failed miserably.  The same people who tried to de-fund the plan last month were now screaming about its failure to work.  Obama’s political and PR victory of a couple of weeks ago quickly turned to a highly visible crisis.  Some members of Congress, always ready to show they’re working hard to solve important problems through the magic of sound bites, scheduled hearings so they could spend much of the week pointing fingers and looking for someone to blame.

In crises like these, particularly after something has gone wrong, is it really important to place blame?  Is it helpful to find a scapegoat, someone to take the hit and be disciplined, fired, or even jailed?

When a leader needs protection from negative public opinion, some believe that a good crisis PR plan includes forcing an individual to dutifully fall on the proverbial knife.  There’s indeed a PR expert or two who think that naming a scapegoat is a way the president could defer at least some of the blame for the bungled Affordable Care Act launch.  But so far Mr. Obama is backing his staff.  This past week his Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius testified in Congress, accepted blame for the mess, but didn’t offer her resignation, despite several harsh political voices calling for it.

President Dwight Eisenhower once said, “The search for a scapegoat is the easiest of all hunting expeditions.”  But maybe it shouldn’t be a PR strategy.  Your thoughts?

63 thoughts on “Pointing fingeRs

  1. lmansl1

    While scapegoats may seem like “the easy way out” I do not feel it is right to lay all blame on someone who does not deserve it all. I have strong beliefs that if you did something wrong you should take the blame for it, not pass it on to someone else. In terms of PR, I feel, finding a scapegoat merely puts off the inevitable of the entire truth coming out. I think it just makes it messier.

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  2. jeremydbeck

    People love a scapegoat. It might be human nature, but for whatever reason people love pointing the finger and putting a matter to rest along with someone’s reputation. It may seem cruel but it is usually what people demand in order to stop screaming about a certain disaster. Once we can put a name to the problem we are content when the name disappears, even if the problem doesn’t. I don’t think its the most effective tool. Focusing on the issue, addressing it and finally fixing the problem is sure to be a more productive alternative but the people want what they want.

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  3. kerry stewart

    I believe that finding a scapegoat in a bad situation can only make that bad situation worse. It will inevitably do the same amount of damage that would have originally happened, but possibly ruin someones reputation in the process. I think that it is an awful PR strategy in every sense of the word. I think that it shows weakness and a lack of courage and responsibility for ones actions. I think in the long run, it’ll make that person look worse and ruin their reputation as well.

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  4. Jeremy Epstein

    This crisis is absurd. You would think after the years of planning to implement the Affordable Care Act and after going through a Supreme Court ruling and having the government shut down over this that the website would work. The website was supposed to be as easy as shopping online but last I checked It didn’t take three hours for a person to choose what they want and buy it. It is not fair to choose one scapegoat though. There is a chain of command and there was clearly an institutional failure. Coming off the NSA scandal and the government shutdown the opinion of the government by U.S. citizens is at an all time low so picking one person may satisfy some but that doesn’t fix this problem.

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  5. Alexandra Ciongoli

    I think it is the responsibility of a corporation to make a choice in whether or not to name a scapegoat. For example, if the CEO of a company has done something horrible and the rest of the company does not support the CEO’s move (much like what happened with Barilla), I think the company should name the CEO as the scapegoat because he is legitimately responsible for the grand error. If a company as a whole has screwed up, I think it proves to be a poor move to name someone the scapegoat. A company parallels a team to me; that team should win together, and that team should also lose together. If a soccer team goalie accidentally allows a player to score, he is not kicked off the team. I think the same concept should apply to the majority of company crisis related incidents. Unity within an organization is key to efficiency and success, and naming a scapegoat in the corporate world is a cowardly way to run a company.

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  6. Emily Green

    I do not agree that the best option in a crisis is to immediately look for someone else to blame and find a scapegoat. I think that adds an even higher negative public image because it shows the public that this person cannot take responsibility for what they have done. If someone else is truly and obviously at fault, then yes it would make sense to ask that person to speak on behalf of the mistake, immediately. However a good PR team should know not to wait around for this. They need to focus on making the situation better. In this case, instead of looking for someone else to blame, Obama’s PR team should have immediately looked for a way to boost his image. Arranging a public apology and a plan to make things better may not have swayed the public immediately, but if he spoke and then actually went through with a plan to make positive changes, Obama could go back in the right and boost his image again.

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  7. Michael Yehuda

    In reality concerning an issue such as health care, there should be no glitches in the website. The Obama administration should know that a lot of people will be going on the website. Whether it was a mistake or not, this is going out to the public by supposedly the most professionals in the United States. This to me is unprofessional and the Obama administration has a lot to fix.

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  8. rachaeldurant

    It is very easy to assign blame in a crisis situation. In the very litigious United States, having an entity to blame for a problem is easier than trying to come up with a viable solution. Especially in this healthcare mess, it is easier to figure out who to blame instead of trying to fix the issues associated with it. I find it commendable when public officials step forward and admit that a situation is their fault. In terms of public relations, honestly and openly admitting to a mistake is good because it shows that the individual is open, honest, and transparent. This apology should always be coupled with a viable strategy for fixing the problem. A resignation is not a long-term solution but a band-aid for a crisis situation. There should be a clear plan with a timeline in order to give the public confidence that the issue will be solved and how it will be solved.

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  9. Ishan Kumar

    From PR’s perspective it is best to accept once mistake in a crisis situation but blame game is the base of politics. It happens in almost any country in the world as politicians try to find a scapegoat. If politicians accept their mistake then they have to resign and millions of dollars are invested in an election campaigns, resigning will not please donors. I believe that the situation is a little dicey when it comes to politics and makes it difficult for PR professionals, whether to tell the leader to accept his mistake or try to improve his image knowing that he is wrong.

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  10. Dilpreet Kainth

    This website crisis is causing the public to doubt many of the government’s and President’s actions and decisions. Oftentimes, if the people do not think they can believe in government, this can cause chaos in itself.
    However, the idea of pointing fingers and putting the blame on someone is simply reaching for an easy solution to a problem that is causing stress and potential panic. This is the easy way out but not always the right solution! When it comes to a crisis, some could argue that finding a solution and finding a way to fix the problem should be focused on more. Rather than finding someone who should be fired and blamed. On the other hand, finding someone to blame could potentially avoid these matters in the future. However, it usually is not only ONE person who could be the main cause. It seems like problems such as this one with Obamacare are a collaborative effort.

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  11. Yeliz A

    This reminds me of the Benghazi situation and how Hillary Clinton was pretty much blamed (by many Republicans) for the events that took place in the Middle East. I personally do not believe in pointing fingers. I think a good PR team should work together to solve a crisis. The whole point in working for a PR company is to work TOGETHER to solve situations that otherwise cannot be solved when left alone to take the blame. I think it makes a company look worse when only one person is spotlighted because it’s only drawing negative attention.

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  12. jessicaxxrebello

    Although it is the job of PR practitioners to effectively build mutually beneficial relationships between their clients and their publics, I feel they must also do what they can to maintain their credibility within their work environment and overall as a person. If a PR practitioner or his or her client is in a crisis, I do not feel putting the blame on someone else is the best idea when handling the situation. I don’t think this should be a PR strategy because it doesn’t actually solve anything. When there is a crisis, searching for a scapegoat is definitely an easy way out of the situation. Putting the blame on someone else quickly takes away the negative attention that is being put on a client or themself, but I don’t think it’s the right way to handle a crisis. If the crisis is in fact someone else’s fault then yes I feel that is acceptable, but if using a scapegoat that is not at fault for the situation is selfish and unethical. I think it’s very important for a PR person to always consider how their actions will affect how they are viewed as an employee of a company.

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  13. Reina Morison

    It certainly is not uncommon for PR professionals to decide to use scapegoats as a way of diverting some of the negative attention on their clients, but this to me is not as effective as simply admitting to what truly is going on. I’m glad that Obama is standing behind his staff instead of pointing fingers, this to me shows that is a true leader. It’s smart of him to take full responsibility for any failures, and be upfront about anything that goes wrong.

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  14. Olga

    Pointing fingers in a moment of crisis, of course, will distract the public’s attention, but will not help to solve the issue. In my opinion, what important is to be able to take responsibility, and instead of wasting the energy on searching for a scapegoat, to take steps to overcome the crisis situation, to fix what is broken. Only real leaders can have enough courage to do that.
    I respect Obama’s tactics to back his staff. It makes him look as a strong leader, united with his team, which is very important in crisis. After all, one man in the field is no warrior. Kathleen Sebelius did the right thing by accepting the blame for the mess. Now they should demonstrate and prove that they are really working hard to fix the situation.

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  15. willmartinez29

    In politics especially, when a problem arises, people love to point fingers. It is human instinct to think that taking blame or owning up to a mistake is the worst possible decision. But, in fact, taking blame for a mistake can sometimes show leadership and responsibility. Another issue that the Obamacare website illustrates is timing. When a problem occurs, the sooner the culprit owns up to it, the better. Letting too much time between a problem and a confession allows rumors to spread.

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  16. Robert Ryan

    The best PR policy is to tell the truth. So if it is someone’s fault, they should be held accountable. There should be no search for a scapegoat, if the blame does not fall on one particular individual than the blame should be placed upon the group. It is important to jump out in front of a crisis before it is blown out of proportion in the public. If there is someone to blame the initial act to fix the crisis should not be that person speaking. The organization should tell the truth and later who is to blame should release a statement. But, if there is an investigation to find a scapegoat than it is not worth a companies time when fixing a crisis.

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  17. Francesca Bove

    If you want to exemplify good PR I personally think that in a time of crisis looking for someone to point your finger at is just a waste of time. When something goes wrong and you are to blame you should own up to it and instead of putting energy into trying to place blame you should put energy into how to solve the problem at hand and how to turn the negative image it has given you into a positive one. In the long run the problem will go away and will have been taken care of right away instead of being covered up and possibly coming back to haunt you in the future.

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  18. nicole_lombardo

    I feel that the use of a scapegoat is poor judgement in any aspect of business not only in public relations. Not only does the use of a scapegoat show weakness and failure to be successful it shows an aspect of laziness. A scapegoat gives off the idea of a simple quick fix that really doesn’t fix anything at all, its a band-aid because in the end there is still a problem that needs to be fixed and blaming someone is not the resolution to the problem. A scapegoat brings about negative aspects to a situation that needs less negativity and more positivity especially to resolve the issue at hand.

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  19. acasole

    I personally believe that good PR and leadership is about accepting responsibility. At the end of the day in a crisis, the main focus should be centered on how to improve the problem at hand rather than wasting time pointing blame. Turning negative attention into a positive solution is really the answer when it comes to good public relations. A good, strong leader should be able to step up and accept the claims and then follow through and solve the issue. Obama should have done this in his recent PR crisis rather than pointing the blame away from himself. Using a scapegoat is never a good PR strategy.

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  20. Kelly Cormier

    Finding a scapegoat to blame a PR disaster on is an unethical method of dealing with a crisis. In a crisis, the best thing method is honesty and transparency. If a person or group comes forward and takes responsibility for their mistakes, there is not much room for allegations, conversation and controversy. This way, it is easier to move on from a crisis. When a scapegoat is blamed for a crisis, they are being wrongly accused of creating some sort of PR disaster that was not necessarily their fault. In addition, there is much more room for a crisis to continue to grow and become a bigger deal than it had to be in the first place.

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  21. Danie Zolezzi

    From a PR standpoint, trying to offset the blame from one person to another is never helpful. Not only does it damage the reputation of the person being blamed but it damages the image of the organization. When a crisis like this occurs the best thing to do is address the problem head on and openly admit to whatever was done wrong by whichever party. However, in most situations, this is not the case. For whatever reason, people feel the need to either cover up the truth or downsize the problem. What they fail to realize is that the truth ALWAYS comes out one way or another.

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  22. Zoe Hoffmann

    Politics aside, I think finding a scapegoat and passing blame not only shows a weak leader, but also shady public relations. Whether or not the President was in the right, standing by his staff shows where is allegiance lies and that says mounds more than his decision to keep/fire a staff member. In the short term, passing blame allows someone to hide from a mess, but not forever. Accepting faults and growing from them is a much more effective because the transparency of a leader will be noted.
    President Dwight Eisenhower once said, “The search for a scapegoat is the easiest of all hunting expeditions.” I think this quote applies to hunting and not much else. Blaming others shows insecurity and weakness, which is just as bad public relations as making a mistake.

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  23. Hector Bonilla

    There are several reasons why using a scapegoat would be an ineffective strategy in this situation, chief among them being the ACA branded as Obama’s own brainchild. Even if they scrounged and found the developer who screwed up the whole website in the first place, Obama would still be held responsible for introducing the idea. The POTUS is also a much more public and recognizable figure and therefore easier to blame. When an organization makes a mistake, publics typically want to see a leader take responsibility. No general calls out a random soldier to fall on his blade for him, and gets forgiven.

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  24. Richard I

    Pointing fingers or identifying scapegoats is a strategy politicians have been using all their lives. However, as PR majors, that is not a strategy we are taught or ever should use. If your company is facing a PR crisis, the head of the company or someone very educated in the situation should be at the forefront speaking to the media. With their information they can specifically and correctly speak to the media about the situation. When you decide to point fingers and blame someone, the only person who looks bad is you or your company. Your company could get a horrible reputation, you can lose clients and your job. As for Obamacare, the President needs to re-evalute this situation and realize there are multiple to blame, including himself. This health care system is ridiculous and a lot of Americans are starting to realize this, if they have not done so already.

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  25. Richard Rocha

    Choosing a scapegoat does not end a problem, it only shows weakness in a campaign. If a campaign fails, but it was believed in and nobody is blamed for the lack of success, then a reformation of the campaign might be looked upon with some respect by outside publics. But if a campaign fails and a scapegoat is chosen, it is essentially admitting that the campaign was a bust that calls for someone to be held accountable. There is no revisiting or rearranging a campaign after this coward’s way out. It exhibits a lack of dignity to public, who will see this attempt to blame someone as justification to not supporting the campaign.

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  26. Sharlys Leszczuk

    Pointing fingers should definitely not
    be a PR strategy. This “strategy” shows weakness and eh inability to take responsibility for ones’s actions. The most important thing a person in the public eye can do is to admit that he or she was wrong. It doesn’t mean that the person needs to lie in order to make the situation blow over, but the individual should take responsibility for what they definitely did do. This makes the targeted person look humble. After admitting what was done wrong, a person could offer up suggestions for what else happened, but with his or her humble image it will be taken better by the public instead of pointing fingers from the beginning.

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  27. twade1031

    Though finding a scapegoat is a valuable PR strategy that is used frequently. Morally, I’m sure that people will say that we don’t need a scapegoat or that PR people shouldn’t use them. But I actually still think that they are necessary in order to take the heat off of the person who is in the spotlight. Some might say that it will come back to haunt them and be obvious that the guilty party used a scapegoat, but in reality people probably don’t even really notice. Nine times out of ten, the popularized version of the story is not detailed enough, and the average person may still blame the scapegoat.

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  28. Brittany Witter

    I am a firm believer in the fact that you should NOT try and find a scape goat to blame in a crisis that is your fault. Obama is taking a much respected route in this current crisis, he is backing his administration not blaming them. I believe that the failure of the launch does not have only one person to blame but multiple. I think that it is important that Obama and his people continue to stick together and I truly believe that they will continue to push and fix the problems that arise as they push to make Obama care happen and be successful. Obama went through a lot to get the aid where it is now and so did his team, and they are not going to let a minor bump or the continue negative opinions of the opposite party to drive them astray.

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  29. Brenna O'Shea

    This semester we have learned a lot about crisises and the proper/effective way to handle one. Pointing your finger at someone else and not taking full responsibility for the situation is not a good idea. It may work at first, but strategically, it will fail in the long run. The truth always appears at some point, so it is best to properly handle it right away, especially for the long term reputation of your company and those you are representing.

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  30. Nick Stiles

    Although using a scapegoat seems to be a frequently used PR strategy I do not think it is good one. Putting the blame on someone else may take the heat off of you for a while but eventually it will come back to hurt them. It is the responsibility of the person in charge to admit when something has gone wrong and take the blame for it. It is better to face the problem head on then to look for someone to blame.

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  31. Alyssa O'Brien

    It seems as though Kathleen Sebelius, absorbed the responsibility for the project. The public often only sees the result of an operation and therefor falters to remember that there are a lot of players in the formulating of such a huge operation. The idea of health care reform is certainly not a new idea and the leaders of this operation are often the scapegoats. It makes me wonder if she would have gained a much publicity for a smooth successful operation.

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  32. Nancy Haas

    President Obama has received nothing but criticism in the past few weeks, especially from the Republican party. However, using a “scapegoat” during this crisis would not be beneficial to Obama’s administration. The president needs to show that he remains firm and sure of himself regarding his law, and must stick to it. Although placing the blame on another person might be the easy way to handle the situation, it will not be beneficial in the long run. Obama needs to present himself as a strong and dependable person who can be trusted by the nation.

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  33. Whitney Shepherd

    I personally think it is a cowardly move to use a scapegoat as a part of a PR strategy. I think it is always best to admit to your wrongs and accept the consequences. The people that voted the president and congressman and women in to office want to see some one who is loyal and trustworthy. The best way to win over the peoples’ hearts is to be honest and sincere. I am just one strong advocate for honesty is the best policy. Even though a lot of PR is based on crisis management, there is nothing that says the PR professional has to put the crisis on some one else’s back. I believe PR is about helping the client face their actions and how they can regain trust from the people, not how to lie and get away with it.

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  34. Max Eisenberg

    If Obama and his supporters were confident in the Affordable Care Act and supported it so heavily, then they should not take blame for the failure and should continue to back what they believe in. Finding a scape goat only temporarily makes the public happy but unless the problem is resolved, there is no real point to firing people and pointing fingers. It was a fluke and needs some sort of resolution in the near future, but I don’t think it’s necessary to take any harsh measures in this case. I feel the PR specialists should work to improve the public views on the members who supported the Affordable Care Act instead of using a quick fix to make a few people happy.

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  35. Max N.

    Accepting the blame for an issue is never easy and if we can we often will choose to place the blame on someone else. Scapegoating others to avoid criticism however, is not a trait I would want to see in a leader. While Barack Obama isn’t exactly accepting full and total responsibility for the failure of healthcare exchange sites he also hasn’t resorted to sacrificing one of those under him to appease the masses. The temptation to do this is, I imagine, great and I respect the president’s choice to ride out this PR crisis.

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  36. Laurel Smith

    Though morally scapegoating is frowned upon, it’s been used in the past for a reason. Just as was mentioned in class today, there always needs to be a face of the “good” and face of the “bad.” As our president, Obama should always be seen in a favorable light by the people. By associating the failing Affordable Care Act with Obama, there’s a negative light be showed upon him. I believe in rare cases such as the one mentioned, scapegoating should be used if there is no other reasonable answer.

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  37. rachelcarru2

    Searching for a scapegoat instantly makes me think, “Wow… what a lack of ethics!” I do no think that finding a scapegoat should even be an option for PR professionals. The word “scapegoat” has a negative connotation in the first place and attempting to take some of the blame away from the true mistaken is just not ethical. I do understand that President Obama cannot afford many more mistakes at this point in his presidency, even if a lot of them were not even his fault in the first place. I do think that he will recover because presidents have recovered from worse than this. Accepting his mistakes will show his flaws, but hiding his flaws will reflect even more poorly on him after the crisis has passed. The public will form their opinions even without all of the facts.

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  38. adrianazappolo

    During a crisis, it is very common for someone to put the blame on others rather than themselves. For many, it is a first instinct to point the finger instead of taking responsibility for what is happening. Although blaming others seems like the easy way out of a situation, it actually makes you look worse. Owning up to your mistakes and proving that you are working towards fixing them shows your responsibility and honesty.

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  39. Jaime Silano

    I don’t believe that it is always appropriate or even beneficial to scramble to “find a scapegoat” in a crisis. Very often when someone takes responsibility for a mistake, the focus shifts from the route and the other elements involved in the mistake and onto that person and their incompetence. This is a quick-fix, I suppose, however this tactic does nothing to prevent another instance in the future. Without a doubt, President Obama has been hit while he is down by opposers of “ObamaCare,” and the finger of blame in this very time sensitive crisis has been frantically passed around. However, had there been less investment in finding a source of blame and more in finding a reasonable compromise, there would have been a solution faster. “Who stole the cookies from the cookie jar?” is not an acceptable or practical approach in politics when it is so imperative to move forward and to do it quickly and efficiently.

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  40. Brie S

    The DailyNews posted a large article in the Politics section regarding this on October 31 and even included a video.

    No matter what there are going to be some Americans who are upset and it is a shame that Obama has to deal with this crisis right after the government shut down. He has a lot of pressure on him and it is hard to not want to find a scapegoat and get rid of all the negative press. While it is easier to place the blame on other people the right thing to do is to take the place; hopefully Americans will understand and recognize his actions in a positive way rather than doubt his ability to run the country. And this is all coming from a Republican!

    Kathleen Sebelius accepted the blame and did not resign even with the pressure from different political voices. I agree with you when you said “When a leader needs protection from negative public opinion, some believe that a good crisis PR plan includes forcing an individual to dutifully fall on the proverbial knife”. Sebelius picked the short straw and fell on the knife.

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  41. Lauren Platt

    Although it may be easier to find a scapegoat and someone else to place blame on, it may not be the best way to go about the situation. Sometimes even putting the blame on yourself can be good because it shows honesty and your willingness to own up to whatever the mistake may have been. It shows that you realize and acknowledge the problem and you are working to fix it and improve!

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  42. csawye2

    This past couple of weeks have been particularly challenging for the Obama administration. The government shutdown was followed by the extreme technical glitch of the health care website. This glitch combined with the shutdown continued to put doubt in peoples minds about Obamacare. I do not think a scapegoat is effective in PR because although placing blame is usually the “norm” it is not right in this case unless someone steps up. During this time of crisis it is important to take responsibility and fix it as soon as possible.

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  43. Julia Ryan

    Searching for a scapegoat is a natural human instinct; we don’t want to believe that we may have caused a problem so we search for anything, or anyone else to blame it on. It is an easy way out of guilt and shame and can make a person feel better…but only temporarily. I feel like searching for a scapegoat is the opposite of good public relations. We are always taught in our classes that the best PR comes through transparency in a company or a person’s actions. That being said, it is important to own up to a mistake or criticism if an error is made. In the end, people are generally more accepting of an apology than a coverup.

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  44. sarah elsayed

    I believe that finding a scapegoat can be beneficial, where someone is backtracking their actions to find the source of the problems. After finding who is to blame, it is much easier to see where a wrong decision was made. However, along with finding who is to blame, it is much easier when people admit their faults, and take responsibility for their actions. Although it may be hard to admit to a poor performance in one’s self, everyone should offer constructive criticism to themselves and others. In order to be a leader, one must be able to admit to their mistakes and to take the criticism of others into consideration before using their power in any way. In PR, the scapegoat tactic has the ability to damage a reputation, but a good PR would not allow that to happen; since it’s all about transparency.

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  45. VanessaV

    It is easier to find a scapegoat. However, that energy and time should be spent on finding the solution for the problem. I think that it’s a commendable act that Pres. Obama is not pointing the finger at someone when others would. As well as taking full responsibility for the problem that happened within his administration. I think that it’s important that people take responsibility for their failures as well as their successes. That’s what shows the real character of a person. I don’t think that finding a scapegoat should be a strategy devised by the PR team. I feel like the PR team should face their struggles and failures head on instead of looking for someone to blame.

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  46. cmadsenpr

    As far as PR goes, you should never just look for a scapegoat to blame your problem on. It will look better in the long run if you take responsibility for your actions and are honest with the public about what is actually going on. Obama should’t look for a someone else to blame these issues on because the reality is that it is his problem to deal with. If he puts the blame on other people and eventually it gets out that it was his fault the entire time, he will lose all of his credibility and then his word will mean nothing to the public. Falsely placing blame on other people is never the correct answer.

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  47. Nathalie Salazar

    Placing the blame on others is more harmful than helpful, I feel. The PR tactic that Mr. Obama has employed is a huge reason for all the backlash in the Health Care website crisis. There’s nothing wrong with supporting his team; however, by not taking responsibility and acknowledging the failure of the Health Care website creates more damage to this PR campaign. I believe that Obama’s PR people should have admitted it was flawed and said we are working to improve it. That would’ve made this crisis not that big of a deal.

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  48. Steve Jellinek

    I think that, in times of crisis and uncertainty, it is more important to be willing to accept the blame and move on towards fixing whatever problems occur in a situation than it is to lay the blame on someone and demean their intentions. In this instance, Secretary Sebelius exemplifies this perfectly. In acknowledging her faults, but at the same time refusing to step down as secretary, she shows her character in that she is willing to still try to fight for what she believes is the right thing, despite her evident fault.

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  49. Isabela Jacobsen

    There’s always going to a negative side to every decision we make, but blaming someone else for our problems is not the way to go! It seems like common sense not to blame someone else for your mistakes. After all, weren’t we all taught that even as children? I understand that some people think this is the solution to their problems because it is the easier way out of a situation, but to make the president more likable, I think facing his problems is the best way to go. It’s better to be a little more honest with the public, instead of hiding information. There will be damage no matter what decision is made, but addressing this information without blaming someone else would make Obama more trustworthy in the long run.

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  50. akrame27

    When a conflict strikes it is so common for individuals to place blame on something other themselves especially when emotions are involved. However, placing blame does not fix the issue therefore instead of making someone the scapegoat it is best to find ways to fix it. The conflict occurred there is no going back so the best option is to move forward and find a solution to the situation. This is why PR professionals are so vital they advocate for the truth and find solutions to overcome the conflict.

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  51. Kim Gray

    During a time of crisis, the easiest strategy is to find a scapegoat to place the blame. I totally disagree. The problem is because of this strategy all credibility the President and his administration built went down the drain. It’s understandable that the President has been receiving negative attention because of the Obamacare and probably felt that placing the blame on someone else will relieve this tension. However, not appearing transparent makes matters only worse for yourself and your image. Taking on the situation head on and confronting the issue shows signs of honesty and responsibility.

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  52. Alexandra Cohen

    I don’t believe a scapegoat is a good PR strategy. President Obama should be accepting the blame and not Katherine Sebelius. President Obama didn’t have a good week and this issue is just making him lose even more political points. Katherine Sebelius shouldn’t be forced to retire like some people want her to because she was just accepting the blame for Obama. President Obama needs to be honest with the American people and address the issue himself by taking responsibility for his own actions.

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  53. Cody Dano

    Yes it’s shame that Obama had to deal with both the government shutdown and the failure of his health care website. However, I believe if Obama plays his cards correctly, he can save himself from disaster. The government has taken steps in the right direction, but now they need to continue doing so. What they should not do now is place all of the blame on one single person. Doing so might solve the problem now, but it would most likely create problems for the future.

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  54. madalyntundis

    Naturally, people look to blame someone else during time of emotional distress. But emotions are only temporary, and the consequences from inappropriately blaming a situation on a scapegoat can have a significant ripple effect. Unforeseeable consequences are the reason public relations professionals should be an advocate for the truth. If a client remains transparent through a situation, the public would have less doubts and unanswered questions, and stop looking for someone to lash out against.

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  55. Joe Flanagan

    I strongly disagree with whole issue that the “Obamacare” situation has been a PR disaster for the President. He came out immediately after the issue was discovered and took responsiblity and offered a time table for the solution. I think the reason why people think this is a disaster is because there has not been significant results yet. I do not think the tactics used today by congress is effective in solving this issue. To try and use Sebelius as a scapegoat is making the issue worse.
    I believe that everyone has the ability to redeem themselves. Especially because she was responsible and took the correct PR crisis management steps, Sebelius deserves the chance to fix this issue.
    I think the only time to place blame on someone is if they make the same mistake twice without making an effort to take responsibility of fix the issue at hand. Until that happens, there should be patience by the American public and congress. There is no precedent to this situation, and without precedence there should be forgiveness by the masses so the problem can be fixed swiftly. Instead, because of congressional and public outcry, they are waisting time trying to explain themselves.

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  56. marilynoliver

    I firmly believe that finding a scapegoat should be left out of any PR crisis strategy. Designating some one to blame simply fuels the failure. It gives the media a new subtopic of the issue to write and speculate about. This only makes the failure seem bigger and affect a longer period of time instead of getting down to the real business of accepting responsibility as a team and then fixing it. Inevitably problems happen all the time, with the biggest companies and with the biggest people, clearly including the President himself. What shows effective leadership is how you deal with those problems and finding a scapegoat seems to be a weak and thoughtless response.

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  57. Laura Schioppi

    Placing the blame on others is not always a good PR strategy. If Obama kept placing blame on different individuals it would show us that he is not a strong and honest leader. Telling the truth and having a plan of action are always good tools to use in public relations. People must take responsibility to show they are worthy. If there are future problems, we must have a plan to create future solutions.

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  58. Chelsey Fuller

    Naming a scapegoat should never be used as a PR strategy. The golden rule in PR is to always tell the truth and be honest with your publics. Nothing is more dishonest than pointing a finger at someone else rather than admitting that you were the cause. As hard as it might be to accept the blame, in the end it is the best thing to do. Sebelius did the admirable thing and accepted the blame for the health care act, which I thought was a smart choice. Even though there can be negative press and outcomes, PR should always be honest. In the end there will be some kind of respect and the public will know that you are hiding nothing.

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  59. Rachel Tyler

    Using a scapegoat in a PR strategy is not a good idea. It is understandable that people want someone to blame in a crisis but blaming the wrong person is not going to get you anywhere. In times of crisis I do think it is the leaders job to take the blame. This may hurt the leaders image initially but over time people will realize that the leader did take full responsibility and did not push their problems onto an innocent scapegoat.

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  60. Leia Schultz

    I interpret the conservative members of Congress eager to point blame at Obamacare – and really any other policy coming from the Obama administration that isn’t perfect – as their attempt to attack anything that they see as flawed, even before it has a chance to succeed over time. Although it may be easier to target a scapegoat than accept and manage error, time will tell who is in the wrong or right. New policies are never flawless in their earliest stages. Only after a period of implementation can anything truly be judged.

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  61. Lyndi Catania

    I do not think that searching for a scapegoat is an effective PR strategy. During a time of crisis it is understandable why the public would want somebody to blame, but ultimately the leader should be the one to step up. I believe that in the long run it is better to take full responsibility and face the problem head on rather than putting it on somebody/something else in means to escape.

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  62. Adria Marlowe

    I don’t think identifying a scapegoat is a good PR strategy. The head of a company or organization facing a PR crisis should be at the forefront of confronting the issue publicly. With the Affordable Care Act – while Katherine Sebelius has accepted blame for problems with enrollment, the policy and how it has been implemented is ultimately the responsibility of President Obama. The strategy of targeting a scapegoat would seem to do more harm to the public image of a chief executive, than if that individual actually took responsibility and lead the organization through the crisis. Another former U.S. president, Harry S. Truman, popularized the phrase “The buck stops here,” which I think illustrates a much more effective and admirable approach.

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  63. croyal13

    The crisis with the Health Care website, especially right after the government shut down, is causing even more doubt in president’s ability. Because Obama and his political supporters did everything possible to reinforce this act, they are not going to back down easily after a technical glitch.
    However, the main problem is no longer about thr failure of the website and the health care policy. It has become about America’s trust and confidence in the presidency. I think it was understandablr why they attempted to first find a scape goat for the issue. The president does not want any more negative attention on his office. However, if the Obama administration fails to be honest with the country, the damage could be permanent.

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