Dear Paula Deen,
You and I go way back. I remember when I started watching your Food Network cooking show in college while I tried to shove into my head tons of facts about the Gutenberg Press and how to write persuasive letters.
Your presence onscreen reminded me of my grandmother – the one who always kept a ceramic mug of leftover bacon fat in her refrigerator. Your voice and the way you casually added butter, lard and sour cream to delicious dishes was always calming to me.
Today I heard you on the radio crying on the “Today Show” and saying something about people throwing rocks at your head. I must say this is quite a departure from the woman who provided the soundtrack to my quiet, studious Saturday mornings in college.
I know there has been a lawsuit brought against you for using racial slurs in the presence of your employees. And that makes me sad. But, some of the ways you are dealing with this backlash makes me even more sad. If you had hired our public relations services at AMI Advertising Agency, here’s what I would have done differently for you:
Paula, you know that no one likes it when others don’t keep their promises. It’s a basic life rule we learn in kindergarten. I’m glad you decided later to make that appearance, but the nay-sayers had already been presented with a great opportunity to bash you even more. Don’t give them that chance. Show up.
Now I know you are bigger than life and you have a lot to be proud of. But people believe those who are overly dramatic are not genuine human beings.
Who told you to say this?
"If there's anyone out there that has never said something that they wish they could take back, if you're out there please pick up that stone and throw it so hard at my head that it kills me.”
I would have coached you to say this
I totally appreciate your Biblical reference to those who cast the first stone, but this was too much. It turned people off.
A heartfelt: “I’m sorry. I’m a sinner just like everyone else. I’m working each day to be a better person” would have been a much better alternative.
Paula, where are your sons? The ones who came on your show and helped you make cardiac arrest-inducing recipes? The dirty politician who stole money or had an affair with his biographer typically has his trusty, loving wife standing beside him when he or she apologizes. Why go it alone?
In addition to your own voice, I would have pulled positive testimonials from your kids, grandkids and employees who love you and support you to get positive messages in the media and counteract the negativity.
With your supporters beside you, the last direction I would offer is to do what you need to in court, be on your best behavior and prove to your fans that you are trying to make amends.
Remember when your best friend in high school made out with your boyfriend and realized he was worthless and said she’s sorry? You forgave her. Your bond was stronger than that punk’s.
Your fans will come back to you if they see you trying to make authentic moves to be generous to others. If Martha Stewart can do it, so can you. And remember, she went to prison. Things could be worse. No one looks good in orange.
Public Relations Professional
AMI Advertising Agency