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A Human Crisis Needs a Human Face

November 16th, 2011

Penn State’s board of trustees said that they “handled it the best way we could with the information we had and with the time that was available to us,” but by hastily cleaning up the mess that Sandusky left behind, the University missed a spot. There is no human face to put at the forefront of resurrecting Penn State.

The current lack of leadership and lapse in moral responsibility puts their brand in the balance of being eternally damaged. At this point, the students are the only ones who have shown significant emotion – albeit upon Paterno’s firing. The corporate side of Penn State’s story, on the other hand, is lacking a human spokesperson that matches the emotional human elements of the incident.

Scandals like this inevitably spread like wildfire and no reputation – no matter how legendary – is fireproof.  It is now the University’s responsibility to get in front of it and face it – not with an institutional approach but an actual face.  Unfortunately, the only human face that is speaking up on behalf of the institute is that of Sandusky – and that is not the person who should be representing Penn State’s image and values.

The school has appointed a Special Committee led by the board to undertake a complete investigation of the circumstances given in the Grand Jury Report, but they still need someone to get out there and reassure the public.

This face needs to exhibit the qualities of an ethical, responsible and trustworthy human being that can captain this sinking ship. Not only should s/he be an advocate for justice, but s/he should ultimately ensure that this never happens at the University again and that those responsible are held fully accountable. The chairman of the committee, Kenneth C. Frazier, has a background in corporate law and administration with a history of pro bono work on behalf of low-income communities. According to the University, Frazier’s “professional achievements, personal qualities and community involvement” make him an ideal representative of Penn State’s goals. Whoever steps up to revamp PSU’s image, be it Frazier or someone else, needs to act quickly. The mushroom cloud of events that has engulfed the University needs a spokesperson – not a spokes-institution.

Face it with a Face: Who do you think should be the face of Penn State’s rebuilding process? Can their image survive this scandal?

Posted Under: Branding, Crisis Communications, Storytelling
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