Local PR expert weighs in on Paula Deen scandal


Paula Deen

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WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. --J.C. Penney and Sears announced Friday they are joining a growing list of companies cutting ties with Paula Deen.

The southern celebrity cook's downfall began almost two weeks ago when a deposition in a discrimination lawsuit was released, in which she admitted using the n-word in 1987 after being held at gun point.

Supporters of Deen are turning to social media calling for boycotts of companies that have severed ties. Many public relations experts who deal in crisis management say Deen is an example of what not to do when you're trouble, especially when you are tied to perceived racism.

"She violated just about every crisis management principal on the planet," said Rick Amme, head of the crisis and media relations firm Amme & Associates.

For 18 years, Amme has helped coach and consult Fortune 500 companies in times of crisis. He says Deen should have acted early.

"She should have immediately seized the high ground, apologizing and saying; 'this is a problem that I have had in the past with communicating with African Americans and say I want to fix that. I want to make a mends and this is what I'm going to do about it, here is what my company is going to do about.' Instead she portrayed herself as the victim of this whole thing when in fact it was her own words, either in the deposition or what she said previously, that had caused her the problem," Amme said.

Amazon.com reported record sales of her upcoming cookbook, though late Friday the publisher pulled the plug on the printing of the book.

Most public relations experts agree Deen could make a comeback though it's unlikely to reach the popularity level of just two weeks ago. "I think America does like to give people second chances, the problem is just how far will she come."

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