Can good PR help Steve Phillips?

Steve Phillips, now former ESPN Baseball Analyst and former New York Mets General Manager, is receiving criticism for voluntarily checking himself into a rehabilitation center following the sex scandal that broke last week.

phillipsxA representative of Phillips, Steve Lefkowitz, issued a statement that Phillips has entered an inpatient treatment facility “to address his personal issues.” Lefkowitz said Phillips’ problems are not substance related and compared Phillips’ problems to those of actor Michael Douglas, who has been treated for sexually compulsive behavior.

“Steve Phillips is not a sleazebag. He’s a good guy who just fell off the wagon,” Lefkowitz said. “Whatever he did wrong, it wasn’t under his control or he wouldn’t be checking himself in for help. He knows he needs help and wants a life with his family — that is paramount to him above everything else.”

Phillips’ Crime in the Court of Public Opinion

Phillips was fired from his job at ESPN Sunday after his affair with ESPN production assistant Brooke Hundley,22, became public.   When Phillips ended the affair, Hundley went after Phillips’ wife and son in what journalists are calling Fatal Attraction style. Hundley made phone calls to Marni Phillips and left a letter at her home after trying to contact the Phillips’ son on Facebook. Hundley was also fired from her position at ESPN.brooke-hundley-and-steve-phillips

Both parties are receiving bad press, but Phillips has more to lose. This is not the first time adultery has interfered with his career or marriage.  He’s admitted to having multiple affairs with women while working for the Mets, and in 1998, Phillips was sued for sexual harassment by another Mets employee but the case was settled out of court.

Will He Recover?

From the eyes of someone in PR, Phillips did the right thing. He was honest. He admitted to his affair and apologized to his family. He is even checked himself into rehab to fix his problem.

Yet, he lost his job, his wife has filed for divorce and he is being ridiculed by the public. While he deserves what he has coming from his wife, everything else seems to be a little extreme.

So what else can Phillips do to redeem himself and his career in sports?  His PR staff needs to go into complete crisis management mode.

The first thing they can do is to get Phillips in front of the camera or journalists. In his statement to ESPN, he said that he would not comment any further on his personal life but since then his “people” have issued several statements on his behalf.  It is understandable that many of the statements have come from his staff in this type of situation, but it would be more sincere to hear it straight from Phillips’ mouth.

Aside from that, they are going to have to be creative.  I’d suggest having Phillips blog about his time at the rehabilitation center and his problems. This will make the problem more real and not just a cover up for being a sleazy jerk. Other online tactics would also be useful because that is where the biggest buzz about this is.


Does Miley forget her fans are pre-teens?

miley-cyrus-photos-5Miley Cyrus deleted her twitter account because her new boyfriend didn’t like it.  A bad PR move? In more ways than one…

Cyrus’s fan base still is, and always will be, Disney channel’s Hannah Montana fans, whether she chooses to believe that or not.  Miley needs to embrace this fact rather than fight it.  Pre-teens want to see Hannah Montana, and parents are doing anything they can to get tickets to sold-out concerts because that is what their little princesses want.

Miley is going to lose some points with those parents for this one.  Do you want your daughter to idolize a 16-year-old girl that changes just because her new boyfriend doesn’t like it?  Miley’s last tweet:

FYI Liam doesn’t have a twitter and he wants ME to delete mine with good reason.”

Miley (or her publicist) must have realized that she was tarnishing her perfect role-model status because an official statement was posted on her website stating that Liam was not the reason for deleting her Twitter account. She simply wants more privacy. I guess her Twitter account was invading her privacy because she felt the need to tweet about pointless things all day long.

She also complains that everything she says is used by the tabloids and that the internet breeds negativity.  If that is the case, then from a public relations standpoint, shouldn’t you keep your channel of communicating to your publics open?

But, after the statement was posted, the Miley-Twitter saga then took a turn for the worst.

What started off as a bad idea by a teenage celebrity who is trying too hard to impress her new boyfriend, turned into what looks like a bad publicity stunt. Yes, I’m talking about the video.

It’s tacky. It’s annoying.  It’s poorly lip-synced.  Again, I rewind to the fact that most of her fans are pre-teens. Is this appropriate?

Publishing the statement on the website was a good move, whether you agree with what it says, it was the right move for damage control from a public relations perspective.  By posting this video right there with it, the statement was lost.  All attention goes to the ridiculous video that makes her seem like an obnoxious brat.

If I could have given Miley some PR counsel…

I would have first advised her to keep her Twitter account going for the sake of having a way to communicate personally with her publics at any given moment. Then I would have said if you don’t want to use Twitter anymore, then don’t. It’s not like she was using it for legitimate PR purposes. Her followers don’t really need to know what she ate for dinner.

It could have been that simple. Just stop tweeting gradually until nothing at all. No need to announce it. Sure, a fan or the media may ask why you stopped tweeting and then you could have said you wanted more privacy or that it was too time consuming.

This obviously was not meant to be handled professionally and tactfully. It was intended to get attention and publicity.  Come on, you saw the video.

Did TLC make the right choice with “Kate plus 8”?

With ratings tanking, TLC had to make some changes to its once hit show “Jon and Kate Plus 8.”  With their divorce Jon and Kate Plus 8battle, conflicts over money and questionable parenting, the Gosselins have become a public relations nightmare for the TLC channel, that’s known for its wholesome programming.

“Jon and Kate Plus 8” was a reality show that followed the couple and their eight children. The focus of the show was supposed to be the challenges of raising eight children; however the focus has now shifted to Jon and Kate.  The show was a hit during its first five seasons, but since the announcement of Jon and Kate’s divorce was made over the summer, ratings are suffering.

For the upcoming season, the network has decided to proceed with “Katie Plus 8.”  Jon will only appear on occasion and the show will showcase Kate as a single mom.

Did TLC make the right decision to say adios to Jon?


  • During the recent seasons, Jon was home with the kids while Kate was writing books, touring and trying to make herself into a celebrity.
  • Jon is constantly fighting to keep his kids out of the spotlight.  He genuinely wants them off the television for Jon Gosselintheir own protection.
  • Jon has filed papers to delay divorce proceedings in an attempt to patch things up with Kate or at the very least, make peace.


  • TLC recently released a statement in response to Jon’s comments calling his behavior erratic, unprofessional and self destructive.
  • Jon has been quoted on numerous occasions talking about how he doesn’t like being on the show and wanted to quit.
  • Jon’s been partying, drinking and allegedly a new girlfriend. This doesn’t exactly portray the picture of a father of 8 young children.

KateIn the end, TLC probably made the right choice.

Jon comes off as a victim to Kate’s brass personality a lot of the time and seems like the nice guy. It may have been a good idea to do the nice guy single dad show for something different. However, Jon blames TLC for everything that has gone wrong and openly speaks out about them. Since it’s TLC reputation on the line, they are not going to make a deal with someone they see as a loose cannon.  For TLC, this was the best decision. Even though they will likely loose viewers who can’t stand Kate, they can depend on Kate to follow the image they wish and stick to the communications objectives.

Although Kate is unpleasant and sometimes downright nasty, she is going to put her best foot forward. Kate wants to be a full blown celebrity and is using anything she can to her benefit.  A new season portraying her as a single “super mom” is likely to enhance her image and reputation.

From the publicity angle, the constant fighting and insults and tabloid photos between Jon and Kate are keeping them in the news. From a public relations standpoint, if Kate can make this work and improve her image as a good mom and keep the insults to Jon to a minimum, she will likely stop getting bad press.

Did David Letterman get good PR advice?

If you haven’t heard, David Letterman is in the news this week after a CBS News employee blackmailed him for $2 million after gathering proof that Letterman was having sexual relations with female staff members. On Thursday, Letterman addressed these allegations during his monologue.  He admitted to his relationships with female employees while throwing in some jokes, in typical Letterman style.

David LettermanI suppose you could say that Letterman did just the opposite of the dreaded “no comment”; a complete over share.  Transparency and honesty are important in public relations, but could Letterman’s publicist really have advised him to do this?

Letterman has already caught a lot of bad press earlier this year for some comments he made about Sarah Palin’s daughter that many felt were in bad taste. People even protested and demanded that he be fired.

Since Letterman’s mouth is already known to get him in trouble, you’d think his publicist would be on high alert for a crisis situation to arise. Counseling him to spill his guts during the monologue of his show probably is not the best way to diffuse the current situation.

By announcing his indiscretions like that, it opened him up to several criticisms.  The first is that he is disrespectful to women. Many women will not find it funny that a married man is cracking jokes  about having sex with employees on national television. The staff members in question most likely will not think this is amusing either, nor will their husbands or families.  Also, the lawyers and others involved in the legal precedings won’t be thrilled that details from the case are being talked about freely.

If I were Letterman’s publicist, I would have counseled him to be open and honest but in a more tasteful way.  Although it’s his nature to be funny, right now is not the time for jokes. If he gets past this gracefully, that time will come.

Letterman needs to show remorse over his actions to win the forgiveness of female fans.  He could take notes on this  from Kobe Bryant. Bryant made a public apology to his wife when his affair was made public with what seemed like a genuine display of emotion.

Instead of airing his dirty laundry on the show, he could have made a more subdued statement.  I would have recommended releasing a statement to the media prior to the airing of the show. He still needed to admit that he had done something wrong, but by providing the media a statement prior, he would have given them something to use that would have been at least slightly more positive then the buzz he created by making jokes on his show.

Late Show with David LettermanHowever, I’m not disagreeing that something needed to be said on his show.  A simple statement, either at the beginning of the show or after the monologue,in a serious tone should have been made.  Something to the tone of “This is what I did, I’m not proud of it, I’m sorry to those involved” would have been sufficient.

But, Letterman did it his way (or his publicists way). It will be interesting to see what kind of backlash this creates for Letterman.  He’s recovered in the past, and he still has a lot of fans rooting for him. Hopefully, although I’m not a huge fan, this wasn’t a career ending move for him.