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  • Writer's pictureFifth Street

PR and the #MeToo Movement

We’ve seen all the stories; countless men being accused of sexual assault since the start of 2017. Harvey Weinstein, Matt Lauer, Louis C.K., Bill O’Reily, Kevin Spacey, Larry Nassar, Roy Moore and many more have made headlines as women and men have come out with stories of sexual assault, harassment and rape.

It’s important to not forget the important role public relations plays in these stories. Those representing these accused men need to remember to tread lightly. Some have done a great job at responding to allegations, while some have not. Never forget to look at both the good and the bad responses to learn how you should handle a crisis such as this.

It’s a moral dilemma. As PR professionals we have two choices: encourage our clients to deny any wrongdoing or accept responsibility. For example, Harvey Weinstein has been accused by more than 80 women in the film industry yet Weinstein and his publicist deny any wrongdoing.

As PR professionals we can have a lot of power. We are trained to learn how to tell a story that best helps our client while still telling the truth. But how do we tread through situations of sexual assault? Is our duty to still best represent our client even if that means potentially hurting the lives of women in the process? In the case of Matt Lauer, should those in the PR department at NBC still have encouraged top executives to cover up sexual harassment allegations against a crown jewel of their network like Matt Lauer to continue making money and avoid a scandal?

I know it is a fine line to tread, and it is one that I have never had to deal with as I am still a student. As a student I have a deep love for the PR industry and the great things PR professionals can do for our world; which is why I am hopeful that those of us in the profession begin to learn more on best practices for sexual assault allegations. I’d like to think there is way that we can find a middle ground that way we can still help our clients and not blame or call these women coming forward liars.

Hannah Scott is a senior from Goshen, Ind., majoring in public relations and political science. Hannah is an account manager with Fifth Street Communications®, a student-run public relations agency at Anderson University.

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