Over the past several days the entire world has watched Paula Deen’s career implode. Deep fried butter jokes and heated racial discussions have been the center of much of the public’s talk surrounding her thanks to the National Enquirer exposing her discriminatory words during a May 17th legal deposition. The deposition is the result of a lawsuit by Lisa T. Jackson, a Caucasian woman, who states she witnessed Paula and her brother, Bubba Hier, make discriminatory and sexual harassment statements and even acts of violence during her years with Deen Enterprises. This document reveals Deen admitting to not only using the “N” word, but also statements against those who are Jewish, black and other inappropriate workplace comments.
What is perplexing to me over this entire Deen meltdown is the fact this issue has been going on for over two years. This issue was knowledge to not only her previous, but current public relations agency. Why wasn’t a winning strategy executed or in place for this firestorm? WSAV, a NBC news affiliate, has this lawsuit going back to at least January 2011. Nancy Assuncao admits during a recent CNN interview for having worked with Deen for six years. The timeframe of her work covers when this allegation by Jackson first arose. According to Reuters.com, Oliver Maner LLP, attorney office for Deen, released a statement regarding the lawsuit in March 2012 and listed Deen’s public relations contact as The Rose Group. The Rose Group apparently replaced Assuncao who resigned during the Victoza, a Novo Nordisk drug, debacle. Again, it’s just not clear as to why did it come to the Food Network not renewing their contract with her and QVC distancing themselves away? Why is Paula Deen losing this fight?
This leads one to believe either one or more of the following three things happened:
- Paula Deen was in denial to her public relations team about making any offensive statements to or around employees; or
- Her public relations team underestimated the response and was unable to develop a fireproof strategy; or
- A strategy was created and Deen decided to not follow it.
It’s quite sad to think with over two years of time, pre-emptive moves to solidify Deen’s feelings of acceptance of all man-kind hadn’t drowned the airwaves in order to strengthen the fan base prior to the deposition. What would lead to Deen not being ready to schedule and appear at several interviews to denounce any foul intent in what Jackson may or may not have witnessed during her tenure with Deen Enterprises?
Instead there is a no-show on the TODAY Show, two apology videos, one of which Juda Engelmayer, Senior Vice President of 5W Public Relations was present during the recording, a loss of a television contract with the Food Network and no scheduled appearances to move her cookware line on QVC.
So as we wait it out to see what will happen next, if an additional agency will be brought in to help per rumor or if she’ll just sit back and wait until the lawsuit and public frying is done, it should be an interesting case study for practitioners everywhere to say the least.
What do you think? Why do you think Paula’s empire burned? Do the pr professionals who are or were around her have any blame in this? Comment below. Your reply may be used for a future post.
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