In this roundtable breakfast discussion, more than 20 attendees met for an open and honest discussion about reputation management in higher education answering the question, “Can Sandusky happen to any of us?” Moderated by Chris Lukach, PPRA president and crisis communications firm co-owner and COO, the discussion touched on topics including: sexual impropriety, plausible deniability and re-branding.
“Penn State’s education message is buried under shoulder pads.” said panelist Dan Cirucci, a lecturer on corporate communications at Penn State Abington. “To come out from under this mess, the communications team needs to highlight the school’s commitment to higher education.”
Panelist Paul Healy of the University of the Arts stressed the importance of preparing for a crisis such as the one Penn State is facing. “You can invest years of marketing and millions of dollars to build a brand and it only takes one crises to undo all that work.” He continued, “You need to have a crisis plan in place before the crisis hits to minimize damage.”
“Reputation management is tough – and no one is safe from it,” said panelist Brian Kirschner of the University of the Sciences in Philadelphia. Once the director of communications for the 76ers, he knows this well. “Reputation crises like this are not exclusive to higher education. They happen in sports, with consumer brands, hospitals – everywhere.”
Lukach ended the discussion with a poignant phrase, “I’d wish you all good luck, but we know it’ll take more than that to get through a crisis.”