10 November 2011

"PR by Ostrich"

Two major scandals have been ALL OVER the news media recently: the Herman Cain sexual harassment allegations and the Jerry Sandusky pedophilia accusations.

What do the two have to do with each other?

Cover up.

This is not a screed against Herman Cain, even though I do happen to think he's an idiot - why do people persist in thinking that President of the United States is a good entry-level job in politics? - or against JoePa, even though I think he's morally culpable for knowing what was going on and not doing more to stop it.

What it IS a screed against is the idea that paying people hush money and/or doing the minimum that is "legally required" is EVER a good idea.

The other thing that both of these scandals have in common is that they occurred when the Internet was still relatively in its infancy and social media wasn't even a gleam in Mark Zuckerberg's eye.

So maybe the parties in question - the leadership at the National Restaurant Association and at Penn State - could at least be understood for thinking, "Well, these are, in fact, CRIMES we're talking about here, but we should be able to sweep it far enough under the rug that it will NEVER come to light."

OK, probably not, but you get my point.

How about, instead of lying and denying and spinning and trying to shut people up, both organizations chose to be open, honest, and transparent, and let the chips fall where they may?

Sure, Jerry Sandusky would likely be in jail, and the Nittany Lions would've lost a great linebackers coach. Which is probably a good thing, because the way it's falling out now, it looks like the leadership of the school decided that winning football games was more important than children's safety. Think on that for a minute. Result? The entire leadership of Penn State has completely lost everyone's respect and their own credibility and integrity. And, shortly, their jobs. And JoePa's previously sterling reputation has been irredeemably tarnished.

The National Restaurant Association might have gone through an ugly court case - although realistically, it would've been settled out of court, since that's what almost always happens in sexual harassment cases - and they would've fired Cain and moved on to their next CEO. AFTER THE FIRST GO-ROUND. And then, when all this came out as part of his presidential bid, as it inevitably would, they wouldn't be giving a black eye to the entire association community. They could've pointed back and said: "One woman made allegations. We went before a judge. The case was settled. We fired Cain. End of story." And Cain could've gone on to harass women someplace else, most likely, but the NRA would've been O-U-T.

Look, if burying your head in the sand was EVER a good idea, it's not anymore. Now this kind of behavior, besides being wrong, is just dumb.

Thanks to Shelly Alcorn for the title of this post, derived from an exchange we had on Twitter.

For another take on this, check out Deirdre Reid's post.

1 comment:

David M. Patt, CAE said...

You are right on the money, Elizabeth.

And these transgressions are only the most recent to see the light of day. This sort of stuff happens all the time, and it's usually hushed up.