Ryan Lochte: A PR crisis case study

By: Abby Cousineau



Source: Abcnews.com

Ryan Lochte sets an example of what not to do in a crisis situation.

This past summer was filled with ‘hot’ topics to talk about, between Taylor Swift and Kanye West’s social media drama, the presidential election, the release of “Suicide Squad” and the Summer Olympics in Rio, my Facebook feed barely had space for any other updates.

Celebrity news is certainly hard to ignore, but hey, who doesn’t secretly indulge in pop culture drama? Since I’m a PR student, I actually love reading about the latest celebrity crises, my current favorite being U.S. Olympic Swimmer Ryan Lochte’s “over-exaggeration” of a robbery that occurred in Rio.

Anyone who has kept up with the news or with social media this summer has probably heard about Ryan Lochte and what went down in Rio. From a PR student’s perspective, I think this case really shows the importance of media training when dealing with a crisis.

Ryan Lochte found himself in a media firestorm when he decided to lie about a robbery that took place at a Rio gas station. Upon the swimmer’s return to the states, he almost immediately ended up on talk shows like ABC’s “Good Morning America” discussing the false claims and apologizing to his fans. Unfortunately, his public “apologies” didn’t make the situation any better because he came off as insincere.

One of the guiding rules of crisis relations, especially when trying to win back the trust and support of the public, is to be sincere. PR News ran a story titled “Ryan Lochte and the 3 F’s of Crisis Communications” in which they interviewed Gene Grabowski, a Partner at Kglobal. Grabowski stated that “the key to any successful apology is to show that you won’t make the same mistake.” Although Lochte did apologize in his interview with GMA, he did not succeed in making people feel like he really was sorry for his actions. Instead, “the highly decorated swimmer continues to ignore what Grabowski and other PR pros call the three F’s of crisis communications: you foul up, you fess up and then you fix up.”

Lochte has stated multiple times that he just wants to put the whole thing behind him and move on. He has attempted to do so by advertising his new role on the popular TV show “Dancing with the Stars.” But just leaving the Rio situation unsettled is definitely not the best thing to do.

Mark Renfree at PRNewsonline.com really said it best when he wrote, “In this day and age the public expects mistakes, but it also expects people and companies to own their crises and show that they can move forward. By ignoring the latter two F’s of crisis communications, Lochte continues to make audiences suspicious of everything he says.”

Do you think Ryan Lochte’s apologies were sincere? Did he “own up” to his crisis?

Abby Cousineau is a junior at EMU majoring in public relations and minoring in graphic design and marketing. Abby is currently serving her first year on EMU PRSSA E-board as Social Media Director. She was drawn to social media because it allows her to merge her passions of writing and design. You can usually find her outside any time the weather is nice, or exploring the Ann Arbor restaurant scene. Connect with Abby on Instagram @abcattt.

Agency tour announced! Airfoil

Join EMU PRSSA and Wayne State University PRSSA for an agency tour at Airfoil on Friday, Oct. 7 from 10 a.m. to noon. To learn more about Airfoil, click here.

To attend, you must register on our Eventbrite page. Members can also register for the carpool and find directions on this page.

Just do the right thing

By: Nikki Mikolon


Photo created by Nikki Mikolon using Canva

Ethics is discussed every day whether it is specified as “ethics.” Plain and simple, ethics is just doing the right thing, and most importantly, doing the right thing when no one is looking.

Public relations practitioners have been condemned for years for being “spin doctors.” For as long as practitioners have been called this, they have been trying to break the stigma.

According to Scott M. Cutlip and Glen M. Broom, the authors of Effective Public Relations, PR is defined as, “The management function that establishes and maintains mutually beneficial relationships between an organization and the publics on whom its successes and failures depends.”

Basically, it is a PR practitioner’s job to communicate the goals, successes and failures of the company that he or she represents to the public. That means telling the truth! There is nothing worse than lying to your audience or consumers.

For example, Samsung recently recalled their Galaxy Note 7 phones because they were exploding from the new lithium batteries in the phone. Instead of trying to lie or worm their way out of giving customers a new phone or dealing with the phones on their own, Samsung simply fessed up to what was happening.

Samsung realized they had produced something that was not functioning in the way they wanted it to or how they designed it to be. The best thing to do in this situation was exactly what Samsung did. They admitted that there was a problem and they came up with a solution.

For all of its customers who had purchased the recalled Galaxy Note 7, Samsung allowed retailers that sold the phones to their customers to provide them with replacements for the recalled phones, while Samsung developed a solution.

Samsung’s decision to recall their phones and find the right solution to their mistake was the ethical thing to do.

Ethical business behaviors lead to customer loyalty. Ultimately, businesses are searching for customers along with customer loyalty. Telling the truth and behaving ethically can help companies do this.

In the end, when you run into gray areas and don’t know what to do, always remember—just do the right thing.

Nikki Mikolon is a junior majoring in public relations and minoring in marketing. As a Detroit native, she hopes to spend her beginning years working for the city and being a part of its renaissance. Connect with Nikki on Twitter @nikkimikolon.

Fall kick-off meeting tomorrow!

EMU PRSSA invites you to our kick-off meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 20 from 5:30-7 p.m. in SC 304. The meeting will be an ice cream social. It is a great opportunity to meet PRSSA members and learn more about the organization. See you there!

7 reasons to join PRSSA this fall

By: Andrea Mellendorf


Connecting with PRSSA members from around the country at National Assembly in Austin, Texas in March 2016. Photo source: Facebook

A new year is upon us, which means another awesome year of PRSSA is about to begin! With our kick-off meeting right around the corner, it’s time to reflect on seven of the many reasons why joining PRSSA is the right choice for you.

  1. Professional connections.

Through annual events, such as the Student Development Conference and Speed Mentoring, as well as off-campus visits to public relations agencies, your membership in PRSSA will help you gain valuable professional connections that could potentially help you as you search for jobs and internships or look to sharpen up your resume.

  1. Friendships

Join us for social events throughout the year and meet new friends who are studying similar majors as you! Your PRSSA friendships will not only be a support system to you throughout college, but will also serve as valuable connections when you eventually transition into the career field.

  1. Conferences

Every year EMU PRSSA hosts the annual Student Development Conference right here on campus, and some of our members even travel off campus throughout the year for national-level PRSSA events, such as National Conference, National Assembly or Regional Conference. These conference experiences provide an opportunity to meet PR students from around the country, gain insights from varying perspectives and make new connections.

  1. Scholarships

Scholarships are available to PRSSA members locally from our parent Chapter, PRSA Detroit, and nationally from the PRSSA headquarters. With tuition prices these days, need I say more?

  1. Monthly Workshops.

EMU PRSSA brings speakers to campus each month as part of our monthly workshop series. At these workshops you will have the opportunity to learn skills from professionals in the field and even try your hand at whatever the topic is. Previous workshop topics have included crisis communication and media relations.

  1. Internships

As a PRSSA member, you have access to the national internship database, which can be used to help you find your dream internship! Finding an internship doesn’t have to be overwhelming, and PRSSA is here to help you!

  1. Leadership opportunities.

Every year, EMU PRSSA holds elections for their next executive board. By getting involved with PRSSA you have the opportunity to gain resume-building experience as a leader on campus in our Chapter.

  1. Campaign experience.

EMU PRSSA members have an opportunity to potentially serve as a Bateman team member. The Bateman team is a group of PRSSA members who compete in a national campaign competition and complete work for a real client. If you are interested in getting hands on experience, Bateman is a unique and fulfilling opportunity for you!

Andrea Mellendorf is a senior and serves as the Chapter President for EMU PRSSA. She previously has served as the Chief Financial Officer and Vice President of Special Events and Programs for EMU PRSSA, and as an intern for the Grand Rapids Children’s Museum. Andrea currently is the Social Media Operator for The Honors College where she manages their Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, and for the College of Arts and Sciences, where she manages their Facebook and Twitter. Connect with Andrea on Twitter – @AndreaMell!


Kick-off meeting scheduled for Sept. 20!

EMU PRSSA invites you to our kick-off meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 20 from 5:30-7 p.m. in SC 304. The meeting will be an ice cream social. It is a great opportunity to meet PRSSA members and learn more about the organization. See you there!

Scholarship alert! PRSA Detroit Donald P. Durocher Memorial Scholarship

PRSA Detroit’s Donald P. Durocher Memorial Scholarship offers an award of $2,000 to undergraduate students studying public relations, journalism, communication or other related fields. The application deadline is September 30, 2016. To learn more about this scholarship, visit here. Click here for the application.