Penn State University
November 11, 2011 by staff
Penn State University, Duke University. BP. Johnson & Johnson. Toyota. All examples of institutions that rebuilt tarnished brand names in the wake of damaging controversies — or in the case of Duke, a firestorm that struck at the heart of the debate on race, sex and privilege in this country.
All present striking parallels to the child sex abuse scandal rocking Penn State University and threatening to topple a pristine reputation of excellence in classrooms and sports fields.
If the lessons endured by other institutions that have rebuilt shattered reputations teach one thing, it is that Penn State should be well poised to emerge largely unscathed from its crisis.
“I think Penn State has built enough brand equity and goodwill to ensure it wins back the public trust — assuming it handles this crisis well,” said Andrea Katz, head of New York-based Ideon, a branding expert that helped to restore BP’s brand following the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
That would mean someone from Penn State — a member of the board of trustees or incoming acting president — would come in and roll up his or her sleeves and transparently deal with the crisis.
“They have a reserve of goodwill and can use that reserve to support the brand in a crisis then to rebuild or reposition the brand.”
That’s what BP did in the wake of the ecological disaster that spewed oil — unabated for three months — into the Gulf of Mexico.
Then-BP head Tony Hayward had to contend with the onerous possibility that a reputation staked on being a green ecological advocate was flushing a brand along with the millions of barrels of oil.
Hayward didn’t survive the scandal — but the company did.
“Because it had goodwill to lean on, BP has managed to weather the crisis,” Katz said.
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