No Media Training in Paula Deen’s Kitchen

Image: Boing Boing
Image: Boing Boing

Celebrity chef and butter aficionado Paula Deen is losing in the court of public opinion as revelations of her racist remarks and behavior continue to unfurl in a lawsuit brought against her by a former manager. Lisa T. Jackson, who worked at one of Deen's Savannah, GA, restaurants, alleges that Deen and her brother, Bubba Heir, subjected her to numerous acts of violence, discrimination and racism, ultimately ending Jackson's five-year tenure at the restaurant.

In a damning testimony, Deen conceded to using the "N"-word numerous times in the workplace, as well as telling racist jokes: "It’s just what they are—they’re jokes. Most jokes are about Jewish people, rednecks, black folks. I can’t determine what offends another person.” In addition, she admitted to pushing for an event where black servers were dressed up as slaves.

Deen's actions are undeniably inexcusable and begs the question: Has anyone dared to suggest to her that perhaps she needs some media training? Getting CEOs and celebrities to submit to real training has been an issue for PR pros. Here are some tips from PR News' Media Training Guidebook Vol. 5 on how to overcome common points of resistance for media training from the C-suite, with a hat tip to Virgil Scudder, co-founder of Virgil Scudder & Associates.  

Point of resistance to media training: "I'm too busy."

Response: Investment of a relatively small amount of time for carefully chosen interviews can produce big dividends. One interview can reach and influence hundreds of thousands of people.


Point of resistance to media training: "It's not my job; I have a PR staff for that."

Response: Shareholders, employees, customers and vendors all want to see the company presented in a positive light. They want to know and trust its leadership.


Point of resistance to media training: "There's no value in it."

Response: There is negative brand value in making offensive and racist comments in public and in the workplace.


See more information on media training in PR News' Media Training Guidebook, Vol. 5.

Follow Lucia Davis: @LKCDavis

  • TruthandConsequences

    Granted that you acknowledged Deen’s actions as “undeniably inexcusable,” still, media training should not be about glossing over or spinning reprehensible behavior.
    Deen exposed a truth about herself. That may be to her detriment, but the truth is always to our (the audience/customer/client’s) benefit.

  • Reader

    This is purely a sensational article that has little to do with Paula Dean’s lack of “media training.” Her words and actions were directed in a private setting. Perhaps she needs a lesson in manners, but racism is the greater issue here.

  • Lucia Davis

    I was hesitant about writing this article for the exact reasons you’re bringing up now (that it came up in a legal context and not in a media interview, and that the focus of this story is her unapologetic racism). We ended up going with it to show how the actions of a CEO/Spokesperson can be incredibly damaging to a brand, making media training for the C-suite at large an essential part of the PR agenda and offering tips to our readers on how to convince reluctant higher ups to invest in it. Deen’s problems go way beyond lack of media training. Whether she said it in a courtroom, her restaurant or on The View, Deen’s ugly, racist behavior is unforgivable.

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