Monday, July 23, 2012

Penn State Will "PAY"

Whether you agree, or not, Penn State is going to "pay" in more ways than one for the decisions that were made by top administrators between 1998 and 2011.

A $60-million fine from the NCAA, the loss of 20 scholarships per year for four years, five years' probation, and a four-year ban on post-season games is serious.

And, you would think, a deterrent to other colleges and universities from similar mistakes and indiscretions.

NCAA President Mark Emmert said, "Football will never again be placed ahead of educating, nurturing and protecting young people."

Sadly, I doubt it will be a wake-up call to very many presidents of colleges and universities, their athletic directors and some coaches who believe they are above the standards that everyone else is expected to meet.

When athletic programs bring in millions of dollars, and feed the egos of the coaches and the people that depend on them, it becomes much easier to believe that you can get away with it, or that what you are doing is really justified.

For the rest of the world, this is a reminder that doing the right thing is almost always the right thing to do, and when something still goes terribly wrong, doing the right thing to fix it, is the second best thing to do.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

So Far So Good At Penn State

While the Special Investigative Report was "scathing" as so many pundits dubbed it, the University's response was exceptional -- particularly in comparison to everything they did wrong until today.

The three speakers, representing the Penn State Board and Administration, said everything I would have recommended.

They took responsibility, they apologized for past mistakes and pledged to make changes to prevent another disaster like the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal.

The only thing I would have recommended they do different was to NOT take questions.

In delicate and legally charged environments like this one, the Institute for Crisis Management frequently suggests the client identify everything that is possible to talk about -- talk about it up front and then thank the media and leave.

We start out by making a list of every possible question reporters may ask.  Identify the ones we can answer, and make notes accordingly.  Then figure out which ones we cannot answer and prepare an explanation for why not -- we don't know, yet; that is a question better left to answer in the court of law, rather than in the court of public opinion;  etc.

Then advise the media  of your news event and tell them up front you're gonna tell them everything you can and as a result there will be no need to take questions.

This Is Gonna Hurt

The bottom line, from the just released Penn State sexual abuse investigation, concludes:

"Taking into account the available witness statements and evidence, it is more reasonable to conclude that, in order to avoid the consequences of bad publicity, the most powerful leaders at Penn State University – Messrs. Spanier, Schultz, Paterno and Curley – repeatedly concealed critical facts relating to Sandusky’s child abuse from the authorities, the Board of Trustees, Penn State community, and the public at large.”
If that were confirmed in a court of law, it would amount to serious criminal behavior on the part of the former University President, Athletic Director, the late Head Coach and the now retired Senior Vice-President of Finance and Business.

The report added:  “These men concealed Sandusky's activities from the Board of Trustees, the University community and authorities. They exhibited a striking lack of empathy for Sandusky's victims by failing to inquire as to their safety and well-being, especially by not attempting to determine the identity of the child who Sandusky assaulted in the Lasch Building in 2001.

The report also concluded:  "The most saddening finding by the Special Investigative Counsel is the total and consistent disregard by the most senior leaders at Penn State for the safety and welfare of Sandusky's child victims. As the Grand Jury similarly noted in its presentment, there was no "attempt to investigate, to identify Victim 2, or to protect that child or any others from similar conduct except as related to preventing its re-occurrence on University property.”

Now the University has got to get its response perfect on the first go.
This is another example of my “management rule number 1” – do the RIGHT THING to begin with and then you won’t have to worry about doing the RIGHT THING later.

Penn State must pick the proper spokesperson and acknowledge everything that was not done right, and pledge to make sure it never happens again. Once they make that straight forward statement, then they must buckle down and deliver.

The lesson is here for every other college, university, non-profit and business – when anything goes wrong, deal with it, don’t ignore it or try to cover it up.  The initial “pain” will almost always be far less severe than the ultimate damage compounded by denial and/or a cover up.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The NCAA Death Penalty?

The call is already sounding for the "Death Penalty"  against Penn State University on the eve of the release of a months long investigation into the Penn State handling of the Jerry Sandusky sex scandal.

The University hired a Public Relations Agency to help them manage the crisis that began with the revelation that an assistant football coach had been called out for molesting teenage boys and Head Coach Joe Patnero and University administrators did nothing to stop him.

CNN has reported there are e-mails from 2001 that allegedly confirm that.

A former FBI Director was hired by the University to lead a "thorough" investigation of what happened, who knew, and what they did or did not do about it.  That report will be released Thursday (July 12) morning.

You would have to assume that the Penn State Crisis Team has anticipated what could be the worst revelations and what their response should be.

Meanwhile, sports writers and others NOT directly associated with the University are talking about the NCAA instituting the "death penalty" for at least a year, barring the PS football team from playing any other NCAA schools for a season.

Ironically, the University of Kentucky was the first school dealt the death penalty in 1952-53. It began with a point-shaving scandal in 1951 when three players were charged with taking bribes to shave points, and then in 1952 ten Kentucky basketball players were accused of receiving illegal financial aid  and the NCAA found that Coach Adolph Rupp and his staff knew the players were ineligible and allowed them to play anyway.

The next few weeks will see just how much power Penn State alumni have and whether they can stave off an NCAA investigation and ultimate penalty.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Wonder How That Conversation Went?

Don’t you wish you could have been hiding in the corner when the bean counters at American International Group (AIG) went to senior management and said we want to sue the Internal Revenue Service because they owe us $30.2 million in interest from an overpayment of taxes in 1991.

That alone would not have been worth much, but just imagine – did anyone at AIG dare ask – what about the $17.5 billion the company, still owes the American taxpayers?
The U.S. Treasury Department, which runs the IRS, still owns about 70% of AIG common stock after bailing out the giant insurance company in the humongous federal bailout two years ago.

If you were responsible for the company’s Community and Public Relations, would you have, at least, pointed out how the American public might react to such a move?

The public perception is these big companies don’t care about anything but their over-sized compensation packages and to heck with the other 99%.

The sad part is they get away with it.

I am sure, if it did come up, someone said, “we’re just playing by the rules . . . we overpaid and it is our responsibility to get that money back . . . even if it is 21-years after the fact and we would not still be in business if the American taxpayers had not bailed us out.