Plenty of RetailWire panelists weighed in today on the hot topic of Paula Deen. Most comments blamed her woes on “political correctness,” but I think that’s oversimplifying a situation that none of us can totally understand. Meanwhile, there was consensus that this was a PR disaster that didn’t need to happen. Here’s my point of view:
Whether or not Paula Deen is intolerant in her heart is not something that the outside world can determine. It does seem apparent that she turned a blind eye toward bad behavior in the workplace. It’s hard for her key business partners — Walmart, The Food Network, and so on — to ignore the issue.
The bigger issue is the mismanagement of the Paula Deen brand, going back at least to the non-appearance on the Today Show last week. Her eventual “mea culpa” was really a statement about her own victimhood rather than a clear apology, and it only served to speed the process of losing endorsements. I’m sure a PR professional weighing in on the topic would have advised her to be as apologetic as possible—as fast as possible—instead of displaying crocodile tears.