We are all familiar with the scandal of Baltimore Ravens player Ray Rice regarding the allegations of sexual assault. Although this issue is slightly outdated, it is always the first one that comes into mind when I think of ethics and PR. I am an avid Ravens fan, along with a student on PR track, so this crisis hit close to home. In addition, I am particularly interested in the crisis management aspect of public relations, something that the PR professionals lacked during this disaster.
According to The NY Times, The Ravens said they never saw the video of Rice assaulting his wife until it was released by TMZ. They said they enforced the two-game suspension prior to the video. However, ESPN said within hours of the incident in February, the head of security was given a detailed description of the video and that the video was sent for investigation in April. Once the video went viral in September, the punishment changed to an indefinite suspension.
In addition to poor judgment in regards to the consequences, the NFL was also very passive with the media. Roger Goodell did not publicly speak and apologize in a timely manner. They cared more about the public reaction and saving face instead of the underlying issue of domestic abuse; an issue so serious and personal to many. This caused great backlash from the public.
Was the Crisis Avoidable?
With better public relations, this whole crisis would have been avoidable. PR professionals are expected to act with the upmost honesty in everything they do. My own editor’s credo states, “I will prevent any legal or ethical problems by being accurate and honest in what I do.” If these professionals had a credo like mine with values like honesty and accuracy, they could have prevented this crisis. I think the NFL definitely uses cases like this to improve their public relations policies in the future.
On Tuesday, Oct. 18, communication students filled the Samuel Riggs IV Alumni Center for the 9th Annual Grunig Gala. Many public relations practitioners from esteemed companies were in attendance to offer aspiring professionals their best advice and information.
My most memorable conversation was with the Vice President of Marketing and Communications at Johns Hopkins Medicine, Kathy Smith. Our discussion was not my favorite because I have a passion for health communication or because I have always dreamed of working at Hopkins. I enjoyed speaking with her because she gave me the reassurance that it is OK to be uncertain of what my passion is right now. Ms. Smith explained her own experiences moving from job-to-job after college until she found a place and career that she belonged in.
My biggest takeaway was to try anything and everything. I learned to never be afraid to accept an internship that I think I may not enjoy or take a job that is out of my comfort zone.
Perhaps the most anticipated part of the evening was hearing from the keynote speaker, Katie Paine. She is known as the “Queen of Measurement.” Her lecture focused heavily on this concept of measurement and how she brought it to the PR world. Her ideas on social media are more relevant to me now, particularly how she stressed impact. It is not about the number of likes or shares, but if they made a difference. I need to start improving my presence on various platforms, while ensuring my posts are appropriate, interesting and positive. Trust is so crucial in the social media world, therefore I must watch what I post in order to remain professional.
Katie Paine was not the only person to discuss social media. Almost every public relations professional I spoke with explained the significance of social media in our field. My generation is labeled as the experts in social media, so we should assume it will play a role in whatever job we may enter.
I am eager to use all of the information I gained at the Grunig Gala to help further my career in public relations. If anything, it made me excited for the realm of opportunities within this field, and I can’t wait to see what my future holds.