Penn State's Flat-Footed Responses Baffle Experts

Ann McClure's picture
Monday, November 14, 2011

The 23-page grand jury report was the product of a "multiyear investigation." Top university officials were questioned under oath about the alleged rape of a young boy on campus by former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky. The state attorney general was running an explosive probe into child-sex-abuse charges that might later be shared with a horrified public.

And yet the very institution whose top officials had been hauled before investigators, a behemoth with a $4.1 billion annual budget and a College of Communications billed as the country's largest, appeared to have no plan for the public-relations crisis that blew up as the report went public Saturday.

In other words, Pennsylvania State University, mystifyingly and to its great detriment, dropped the ball.

"I've seen crises where a client gets a call out of the blue and something's blown up, and those are around-the-clock, 24/7, in-the-heat-of-the-moment" response strategies, said Joe Crivelli, senior vice president of Gregory FCA, a public- and investor-relations firm in Ardmore. "But for something like this, where there's lead time to prepare for when this would be made public? Kind of mind-boggling."

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