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2014 Image Rehab: The Paula Deen Edition

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A New Year can bring a chance for new beginnings. With 2013 now in the rearview mirror, brands and personalities that have done wrong have the chance to embrace their past and begin to rebuild. Throughout the month of January, EDPR will be examining some notable public figures and brands that have crumbled in 2013, and offering up our two cents on how they can rehabilitate their images.  First up, Paula Deen.



Paula Deen had a quick fall from grace in 2013. The once lovable, southern-cooking mom admitted to using inexcusable racist language while on the stand during a court appearance. The fall out began almost immediately. She was dropped from her long-standing gig on the Food Channel and lost countless sponsorships. We’re not even going to touch the horrifying public apologies. Needless to say, our job as PR professionals is to find opportunities to assist with image rehabilitation.

Here are 5 action items we think Paula Deen and her team need to embrace in 2014:

1. Start from the Beginning 

Remember what made Paula Deen famous in the first place? In light of all of the recent controversy you might have forgotten. As a reminder, it was her over the top personality and home style recipes. Society needs to be reminded why we fell in love with this Southern belle when her face first graced the television screen. Ms. Deen has her hands in so many projects from cookware to restaurants to live events; maybe it is time to narrow the focus and regroup.

2. Focus on Giving Back

Associate with a charity that has some personal meaning. Paula’s charity, The Bag Lady Foundation is mentioned briefly on her website, but we’d advise her to find a charity that is external from her brand. Focusing on lending her name and time to an organization like the Heart & Stroke or the Diabetes Association (and not just announcing a monetary pledge as she did in 2012) would be a great starting point.

3. YouTube is your New Best Friend

We know Paula Deen isn’t going to be picked up by a network anytime soon, but luckily for her (with today’s technology), she can be a publisher of her own content. The YouTube Channel now functioning for Ms. Deen could use some brushing up. We would recommend a publishing schedule of 3 themed videos weekly, consisting of 5 minute recipes and tips — with Paula in the picture talking direct to camera. The tone should resemble that of the show America came to love back in Paula’s beginning days. Comments need to be monitored and attention to detail on this platform is crucial.

4. Contribute an External Weekly Online Column

Now, we are not talking an opinion-based column, but one focused on the core of Paula Deen: recipes. This column will allow the public to get used to seeing her name again in a non-invasive way. Her YouTube episodes should be embedded into the column, helping to generate reciprocal traffic and acquire subscribers to her channel.

5. Acknowledge Mistakes and Move On

The past is the past, and everyone does make mistakes. The severity of using such offensive language isn’t something the public should ignore, but everyone should be given the chance to correct their wrong doings. If the controversial topic is revisited during any of Paula’s upcoming media engagements (which it will be), she needs to clearly state that she is sorry for her mistakes and move on. No dancing around, no pointing the blame — just a clean-cut sincere apology, and on to the next topic.

The underlining factor here is deciphering whether or not the public is ready to embrace the thought of allowing Paula Deen back into the public eye. Only time will tell what fate lies ahead for Ms. Deen, but one thing is for sure: if she wants to come back, she’ll have to do the work — and rightfully so.

Stay tuned for next week’s Lance Armstrong tips!

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    1. […] turning it over to you. Based on our past posts featuring Paula Deen, Lance Armstrong, and Justin Bieber, let us know how you would go about restoring the image of […]

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