A Lesson in Crisis PR from the Petraeus Scandal
Last week, Americans witnessed an abrupt end to the distinguished career of a dedicated public servant and courageous soldier. The infidelity scandal surrounding former CIA chief and decorated Army General David Petraeus has been dominating media coverage since the story broke.
We’ve learned in recent days that the action that eventually led to Petraeus’ downfall was a report to the FBI by Tampa socialite Jill Kelley. A week after Petraeus’ resignation, Kelley is now under heavy scrutiny and the press spotlight has turned on her regarding her ties to and communications with General John Allen.
In the latest chapter of this developing drama, Wednesday reports stated that Kelley called 911 to complain about trespassing reporters investigating the story. An aggressive course of action such as this generally only serves to antagonize the media and may make reporters even more passionate about getting their story.
Another lesson to be drawn from this tangled affair is that actions have an impact and may lead to a chain of events that spin wildly out of your control. By reaching out to the FBI concerning an anonymous and threatening email she received (from Petraues biographer and mistress Paula Broadwell), Jill Kelley’s actions not only led to a salacious sex scandal surrounding General Petraeus and his resignation from the CIA, but also created a PR crisis for General Allen and herself.
When individuals reach out to law enforcement, government, or the media then they should be prepared for possible consequences. After all, it is their job to research and dig deep into the issues that are brought to their attention. That is why people in sensitive situations should proceed carefully, with the full knowledge that their actions can have unforeseen consequences of massive proportion.
That is also why it is critical for those who find themselves in crisis PR situations to retain experts such as Red Banyan Group. Our team helps clients successfully navigate high-stakes situations and effectively communicate their messages to the right audiences when it matters most. With new information emerging each day to fuel the fire, the scandal involving Petraeus, Allen and Kelley is not likely to die down soon.