Michael Levine has been in the PR business since 1983 (his firm is called the "Oscar" of PR and has represented Bill Clinton, Michael Jackson, and Cameron Diaz). This expert has weighed in on how a celebrity should handle a crisis (or f-up, if you will) as big as Paula Deen's. His four tips are interesting, and pretty spot on. Here we go:
1) Respond quickly to problems: Though Deen cancelled her originally-scheduled "Today" interview, opting to record her own videos — which were much maligned for being obviously edited — Levine says she can make up for it during her Wednesday appearance. "I don’t think it was wise [to cancel], but America is basically a forgiving nation, so I think if she goes on the ‘Today’ show and confronts it, this will be a good thing for her."
2) Respond with humility: "We've already started seeing her make her apology," says Levine of the self-recorded videos in which Deen apologized “to everybody for the wrong that I’ve done,” saying she's made mistakes and calling her language "inappropriate and hurtful." But Levine says she will need to continue to appear remorseful when speaking to Lauer. "She's begun the healing process, but it's a process and you have to keep doing it again and again until you get it behind you."
3) Respond with contrition: "If you make clear that this is not who you are today, and you show some degree of sincerity about it, over time you should be fine," Levine opines, though adding changing the public's new perception of her will not happen "in an hour, day or week." Though he does believeAmerica could see Deen back on its airwaves in the course of a year or two if she appears sincerely sorry.
4) Respond with personal responsibility: Levine says one of the biggest goals of her "Today" appearance should be to own up to her actions without making excuses. "She can't belittle and blame others," he says, citing O.J. Simpson as an example of how not to address a crisis. “He responded arrogantly, slowly, and belittled and blamed others and did not do well with the public." Instead, Levine recommends Deen follow Hugh Grant's lead back in 1995, when he appeared on "The Tonight Show With Jay Leno" to publicly apologize for having an affair with a prostitute, famously saying, "I did a bad thing." The actor went on to have continued success.
"If you do those four things — if you go fast, humble, personally responsible with contrition, and apology, you're going to basically be OK," says Levine.