Paula Deen and Recovering Your Reputation

Apologia of the Week:

Apologia is defined as:

: a formal justification : defense

: excuse 2a
: an admission of error or discourtesy accompanied by an expression of regret <a public apology>

You may have seen this interview by Matt Lauer, who has many times cooked with  Paula in the Today Show’s on-set kitchen. Matt asked some pretty tough Qs of his Southern belle friend, and I’m pretty sure he wasn’t thrilled that she had bailed on him a few days previous for the same conversation, which any PR knows is a nightmare.

Regardless of your beliefs regarding Deen and whether she is racist to the core, or has been targeted by a disgruntled employee, how do you rate her performance in the apologies recently given and in her Today show appearance?

Personally I think her oft-quoted statement from this interview, “I is who I is,” is remarkably true in this clip. I see an uncomfortable, elderly woman who is used to being loved for her bubbly Southern hospitality, utterly shocked that she is the victim of a firestorm.

I appreciate that she has apologized several times now, and that she contends she used this word once many years ago while being held at gunpoint. The problem with her apologies is that racial discrimination is one of the most sensitive topics in this country, and regardless of all the backstory we might not know here, swift, sincere apology with no self-pity were what was called for here, and she couldn’t quite manage that.

The Road to Recovery?

CNN Money reports today that after the loss of 10 sponsors:

“In an attempt to stop the hemorrhaging, Paula Deen has hired Smith & Company, the crisis-management firm run by Judy Smith — the inspiration for the hit ABC show Scandal — according to a source familiar with the arrangement. Smith has served as a consultant for a host of high profile clients including Monica Lewinski, Michael Vick, Wesley Snipes and Jill Kelley, the mistress of former CIA director General David Petraeus.”

I am very interested to see how this plays out over the next several months. How will Paula’s tone change? What else will be revealed? What will come out about the disgruntled manager?

What happens now?

The bottom line? Integrity matters. And sometimes, when true remorse and redemptive action is shown, America forgives, and sometimes not. Tiger Woods is on the rise again after his much-publicized affairs,  and has sustained his Nike sponsorship throughout the last few years. Mel Gibson, not so much. Paula Deen’s integrity is now being tested. I have read that her new advisor, Ms. Smith, likes to believe in the goodness of people.  It will be interesting to see how far Paula Deen’s integrity and Southern charm can rebound from the events of the last three weeks.

What are your thoughts on public apologies and the possibilities of redemption?

About Kara Udziela

Kara Udziela created Vibrance in 2006 to unite big agency brainpower with small agency passion and help companies and entrepreneurs who are changing their corners of the world to explode off their web sites, polish their stories and finally get the recognition they deserve on national and international stages. Vibrance launched startups like the now global stock media powerhouse iStockphoto, growing its strategic communications campaigns across 10 countries.

Share Your Comments & Feedback: