Every once in a while, there are moments so humiliating and reputation damaging that it’s difficult to foresee any possible way to fix the viral media sensation you’ve created. Last Sunday, the country cringed in unison as 2013 Miss Utah Marissa Powell gave quite possibly the worst response to a Miss USA interview question since the “everywhere like such as” answer Miss Teen USA South Carolina gave during her interview in 2007.
In case you missed Sunday’s round of Miss USA events, Powell was asked to answer a seemingly simple question: A recent report shows that in 40 percent of American families with children, women are the primary earners, yet they continue to earn less than men. What does this say about society? Her response:
“I think we can relate this back to education and how we are continuing to try to strive to... figure out how to create jobs right now. That’s the biggest problem and I think, especially the men, are, uh, seen as the leaders of this and so we need to try and figure out how to create education better so we can solve this problem.”
It was certainly not Miss Powell’s brightest moment. Was it personal humiliation? Absolutely. Could she have let it define her, and thus potentially ruin her future career? No doubt about it. But let it define her, she did not. Three days later, TV personality Jimmy Kimmel invited Powell onto his show, where she cleverly redeemed herself – in song, and she had the chance to explain her fumbled answer on the “Today” show.
How you handle a situation is how you define yourself, and in this case, Powell set a perfect example for how PR professionals should handle their clients’ not-so-shining moments. Rather than hide from it, bury it and hope everyone forgets (they won’t), or let it build up beyond the point of no return, Powell decided to tackle her slip-up head on, and that’s exactly what we as PR professionals sometimes have to remind our clients -- and ourselves -- to do as well. Be honest, explain yourself without over-excusing yourself, and don’t take yourself too seriously. As Tiger Woods said after his far worse moments of humiliation, “If you can’t laugh at yourself, then who can you laugh at?”
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