Here is a scenario: A public relations professor attempts to teach crisis communication to her students. Instead of explaining what the term crisis communication is, the issues a crisis PR firm must face and how they can handle it, just show the tabloids that popped up not even a month ago: Duck Dynasty star Phil Robertson, GQ magazine, emotional critics on both sides of the argument, and a bowl of popcorn can have the PR newbie learn the word crisis within a total of five minutes.
Drew Magary of GQ Magazine published an article in January about Phil Robertson and his family, with whom their “duck call” (a hunting instrument, or a process, that lures waterfowl), became famous and thus started a reality-TV show.
The bible-thumping statements by Phil in Magary’s story was what first started the controversial uproar. Controversy part two occurred when A&E, the network that sponsors the Duck Dynasty show, suspended Robertson indefinitely for his rather strong, Bible-oriented (or at least his version of the Bible), beliefs.
The #IStandWithPhil petition, with more than 250,000 signers currently, is an example of how strongly people abhorred the decision from A&E. So of course, Robertson is back on the show after a few weeks of suspending him.
Crisis public relations expert Glen Selig was head of a panel this morning in Tampa, Florida at the TBO.com building to address the crisis, and how the PR disaster could have been prevented, or at least make the issue a little more alleviated to the public.
Given that this controversy has a lot of relevancy to my major, I thought it appropriate to analyze this PR crisis that has sparked such intense and emotional debate from the public.
What would have happened if Phil Robertson hired a PR practitioner for this interview and told Robertson to say “politically correct” statements (for today’s society) regarding certain religious beliefs? Duck Dynasty should be rejoicing over their new haul of publicity. Regardless of ethics (sadly), the reality TV show would probably have gotten even more viewers curious about the show, more clicks on websites related to the show and more merchandise sold through angry protesters.
Wrong. At least for the first one.
Members of the LGBT community, and plenty others, were outraged over Robertson’s choice of words. If a PR practitioner had been present to assist Robertson, it is unclear how the situation would have been taken then.
In a hypothetical situation, if Robertson did take the practitioner’s advice of being politically correct, and he did not say controversial things publically, perhaps the show would have had its 12 million viewers back.
But then Robertson would not be portraying a true image of himself he wishes to show to the public. He fairly stated his opinion. A&E slapped his wrists, as one article mentioned, and threw him right back into the show.
Time will tell whether the show will thrive through this controversy or not. Knowing America and its constant wish for dramatization, I think we all know what the answer is.