“The Fatal Backward Step” Analyzes Penn State’s Public Relations Fiasco

By: Tom Malone

Why did Penn State’s Board of Trustees panic during the sexual abuse scandal that plagued the institution and football program earlier this year? An anonymous member of the Board admitted that the intense media pressure played a role, according to William Levinson.

Levinson, a Penn State graduate and business author, discusses the similarity between military obligation to the troops in a brigade and the obligation to stand by an administration during a time of crisis.

He suggests that the Penn State Board blatantly threw head football coach Joe Paterno and university president Graham Spanier under the bus (sorry for the cliché) with intentions of saving their own image.

A step backwards from the line of fire can cause more damage than facing the threat head-on, says Levinson. Instead of standing by their men, the Board backed up in cowardice by assuming the guilt-by-association notions of Paterno and Spanier.

The author provides an interesting viewpoint. He describes the relationship between military strategy and public relations strategy, a relationship that I’ve never thought of before reading his post.

How can the study of military or sports strategy relate to public relations planning?

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