Butter Doesn’t Always Make It Better

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Posted: March 12, 2014, 2:22 p.m.
by Addison Viani.

Celebrity chef Paula Deen is well-known for her deep-fried, southern cooking, soul food. Her recipes and southern ways have created an empire for herself and her sons. Paula Deen Foods has now become a recognized brand seen in select stores all over the country. She has built this brand simply on the basis of fried food, lots of butter and southern charm. Everyone ate it up.

Paula now has 14 cookbooks, a large line of cookware products, spices, sauces and has recently come out with a furniture line. Nothing seemed to be getting in the way of Paula’s thriving business. Unfortunately, her fame and fortune came with a large price that was hard to pay off.

Paula’s deep-fried crisis began June 2013 when she was sued for both racial discrimination and sexual harassment within her restaurants. The next four months were filled with trials, tears and a countless number of unsuccessful public relations efforts.

Despite several failed attempts to win back the loyalty of her partnerships and fans, Paula has recently reemerged with a new and improved outlook regarding the past events.

Paula has taken several steps toward rebuilding her empire and giving it her all to showcase that sweet, southern charm we know and love. Here are a few of the simple public relations efforts Paula has taken that finally have her moving down the road to recovery.

*Retreat*
Paula seemed to fall off the radar a few months after the scandal, which was a smart move. She was out of the spotlight for a while and was not very active on any of her social media outlets. Being silent and simply “waiting it out” allowed for some of the deep wounds to heal.

*Apologize continuously*
No matter how much time has gone by since the crisis, Paula has made sure to utter the words “I’m sorry” in her recent public appearances. She was given a lot of flack regarding her apologies (or lack there of), but has since made sure to make an effort to change.

*Begin again*
A recent article in USA Today said, “…private investment firm Najafi Companies is investing $75 million to $100 million to help her make a comeback. As part of the deal, she’s launching an umbrella company, Paula Deen Ventures, that will oversee her restaurants, cookbooks and product endorsements.” Paula is indeed looking forward. She is focused on strengthening her current partnerships and has finally started to get back to what she does best, cook.

Although Paula’s beginning public relations strategies were a recipe for disaster, she is now taking it a day at a time and building back the relationships she once had. I think Paula will have a successful career ahead of her, and her current partners will continue their support. Her recipes will continue to win over people’s hearts, no matter how much butter she adds.

4 Comments

  1. Rachel Moore

    To start off, I would like to say this piece is very interesting. I happen to watch Food Network often and have been able to inform myself on the drama with Paula Deen. I knew about the racial comment she made that resulted in her losing her spot on the Food Network, but did not know about the sexual harassment scandal within her restaurants. I think the post could benefit from a little more information about these situations.
    I really liked how Addison used “butter” in the first and last paragraph. It added some humor to the post. Anyone who watched Paula Deen knows she loved using butter. I also like the play on words where it says, “everyone ate it up.” I thought that was clever too.
    When talking about her road to recovery and the different approaches Deen used I thought the “apologize continuously” section was interesting. A few weeks ago I watched an interview between Deen and Matt Lauer. During the interview Deen maintained a sad look, cried some, and apologized over and over. It was clear that she must have had a public relations team behind her telling her to do these things to get sympathy. Because of already having seen that interview this section of the post did not surprise me.
    On the other hand, I did not realize there was so much money going into her making a comeback. I hope it pays off because $75 million is a lot of money! I thought this was a great post and enjoyed reading it. I hope Paula Deen can overcome this obstacle. Like Addison, I think that in the future Deen will continue to have a successful career.

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  2. Meagan F

    I enjoyed reading this blog Addison. I feel that the representatives of Paula Deen handled the situation well and will continue to work. The most important tactics, in my opinion, were her getting off the grid and then the constant apologies after. Celebrities are only human. When an incident happens like this, it is important for others to realize that and then take into consideration how the individual handles the crisis. Deen has shown her sincere regret and is trying to make up for her fault.

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  3. Jean Faircloth

    Addison, this is a great blog concerning Paula Deen. I agree with Meagan, another viewer, on the importance of your segment concerning apologies. It is very interesting to watch public figures in the spotlight, during and after a crisis. I applaud Paula Deen for publicly accepting her faults, rather than denying or trying to provide her reasoning for these actions. I find it interesting that you noted the obvious factor of present public relations efforts. Although it is important and obvious to those in the PR field, do you think the general public can sense that her actions are taking place because she has been told to do so? It would be interesting to know in connection with the publics’ response to her image. I believe it is much easier to forgive someone when he or she is apologizing because that individual truly feels bad, rather than understanding the aspect that the individual was told to do so to best benefit his or her image.
    Also, Paula Deen has built a successful empire on recipes that make unhealthy, yet delicious food. She has never tried to brand her products to coincide with the constant trend of “low calorie or low fat” foods. Instead, she is open to selling Southern, butter and sugar filled foods. Therefore, her fan base is built on honesty of product and self. She has continued this practice by admitting to have been at fault and consistently apologizing. It will be interesting to see if her past fans will acknowledge these genuine acts and remain loyal in the future. This is another genius move of Paula Deen’s public relations team.
    Once honest, always honest?

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  4. Ellie B.

    Interesting article, Addison. I enjoyed reading your article, because I too am an avid Food Network watcher. I especially enjoyed your puns and creative word choice. This is a case seen too often in media: a personality or celebrity makes a career-altering mistake that the media explores and we watch that celebrity fall and attempt to rebuild. In Paula Deen’s case, we see the same struggle of many celebrities and personalities before her. I like your breakdown of her damage control process, because it illustrates her career downfall in a professional view, rather than an entertainment view. I also like how you took a nonbiased approach to the situation throughout the story and stated your opinion at the end, because it allowed me, as a reader, to make opinions of my own. While although I don’t doubt Deen will regain her success, I think this is going to be an interesting climb to watch as both a Food Network fan and PR student.

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