Sponsors continue to flee from Paula Deen after the celebrity chef recently confessed to using racial epithets in the past. In a mere matter of days, Caesars Entertainment, Home Depot, Walmart, Target, Novo Nordisk, and QVC have all cut ties with Deen, at least temporarily.
NBC’s The Today Show exposed a softer side of Paula Wednesday morning in a hard-hitting, tell-all interview (after she cancelled last Friday’s appearance at the eleventh hour.) Facing tough questions from journalist Matt Lauer, Deen broke down in tears throughout the appearance, insisting she was not a racist and that there have been “many hurtful lies” spread about her.
While news also broke this week that Deen has hired a well-known crisis management firm, the Paula Deen damage control efforts to this point have left much to be desired.
After Paula Deen’s reputation management got off to a shaky start that cut down her credibility, it will be very tough to make the Southern chef palatable to the public at this point, even if she delivers a perfectly crafted message.
Missteps in the early hours of a crisis can make or break future outcomes. Deen made a bad situation worse by cancelling her media interview last Friday only to air a poorly-edited apology video, which was later removed and replaced. Inconsistencies such as these work against any crisis management effort by creating feelings of insincerity and deception.
When controversies like the Paula Deen scandal occur, the media often has the tendency to whip itself into a frenzy and rapidly spiral out of control like a tornado. This creates tremendous pressure on companies to disassociate themselves from the celebrities who are bearing the brunt of the media maelstrom. As a result of the tempestuous Paula Deen PR crisis, her sponsors appear to be living out the old adage: if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.