I won’t go into great detail about what was horribly wrong with an interview Waco, Texas KWIX-TV television reporter Julie Hays conducted with former Baylor University chancellor Ken Starr. All you have to do is watch it.
You don’t have to work in public relations or as a crisis communications specialist to know that this interview regarding rape allegations against Baylor athletes and subsequent staff firings was anything less than a disaster. It was a cluster for Baylor, Starr and his PR specialist, who was introduced to the KWIX crew as a “family friend.”
To be clear, I in NO way dismiss the victim(s) in this growing case against Baylor by talking PR.
Here we look at some of the ugliest of inauthenticity and downright bad public relations practice. We remind universities or any organizations that while most crisis responses are not this shameful, it pays in many ways to be prepared before a mess occurs. In sports, it prompts presidents, athletic directors and coaches to read and tend to emails that proverbially scream “HELP.”
It tells young public relations practitioners that you never pull your client aside and tell him to change his answer during an interview, and then ask the reporter to edit the part you don’t like from the piece.
Of course there’s the No. 1 rule of crisis communications, which is to tell the truth and be as transparent as possible. If you lie and there’s a paper trail or anyone to refute your story, it will come out.
We often say that the cover-up is worse than the crime. In this case, not much could be worse than sexual assault allegations, yet in a PR sense, the apparent cover-up carries a whopping stench.
Like I said, watch the interview for yourself. And when faced with a crisis, don’t do anything that was done here.
©Gail Sideman; PUBLISIDE 2016