Public relations can be a harsh judge, jury, and, if your gaffe is bad enough, executioner. You can work a lifetime to build something, and then lose it in a moment. Just ask Pamela Taylor, the now “former” director of the Clay County Development Corporation.
Taylor was, by many accounts, an effective leader who was good at her job. Privately, she had some strong political and personal opinions about the current occupant of the White House and his wife, but she never let that get in the way of her duties.
Then came an errant Facebook post that eventually cost Taylor her job, her reputation and, likely, any chance of getting anything similar in the near future. In the now infamous post, Taylor compared incoming First Lady Melania Trump to First Lady Michelle Obama. So far, okay. But it’s HOW the two women were compared that got Taylor in hot water. In the post, she referred to Ms. Obama as “an ape in heels.”
The post was later deleted but – and you’ve heard this one before – not until after someone took a screenshot and shared it across the web. Taylor, a small time charity director from West Virginia, was now a household name … for all the wrong reasons.
Initially, Taylor was suspended as officials conducted an investigation. Many expected her to be re-instated after a cursory paper pushing expedition for the media. Then the other shoe dropped. Investigators found what they called “loopholes” in how the charity was being managed.
Subsequently, state officials stated they would be keeping a closer eye on the nonprofit, while they continued to determine what to do about Taylor long-term. It didn’t matter that the nonprofit was helping provide services to elderly and poor residents, the entire operation was under suspicion. Suddenly, Taylor was a liability on two fronts, making firing her an easy decision for the nonprofit officials looking for a scapegoat.
When a PR crisis lands, the contributions of those primarily blamed are measured as part of the overall value, they deliver to the organization. When your value is tarnished or overridden by scandal or ill will from people the company needs to succeed, your job becomes a very simple equation. Can they replace you and make the problem disappear? If the answer is “yes,” you’re likely gone. If not, you can still expect to pay a very public penance and walk away with the certain knowledge that status quo will never again be what it was.
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