PR pros gone wild! 5 examples not to follow

This week, James Miller, spokesman for the Albany Police Department, was arrested for alleged drunken driving. He joins the list of PR pros who have gone from handling crises for a client to managing their own.

Public relations pros are renowned for helping their clients avoid crises (or at least mitigating their severity). But the last thing any PR practitioner wants is to become the story. Just ask these five PR people:

James Miller, spokesman for the Albany (N.Y.) Police Department, got himself into hot water this week when one of his co-workers charged him with driving while intoxicated, refusal to submit to a sobriety test, and driving without headlights, according to the New York Post.

Lizzie Grubman first gained celebrity in the music industry by representing the likes of Britney Spears, Jay-Z, and the Backstreet Boys. In 2001, Grubman turned her celebrity into notoriety when she drove her SUV into a crowd of people outside a club on Long Island, injuring 16 bystanders. Because of a plea bargain, she served just 37 days in jail.

David Bass was among the most respected PR pros in Washington, D.C., until an October 2009 flight, in which he was accused of loutish behavior. According to court documents, Bass “seemed drunk on the flight, disobeying instructions from the crew, climbing over another passenger to get to the overhead luggage bin, making ‘mean faces’ and generally upsetting everyone in first class.” Bass, CEO of Raptor Strategies, chalked up his behavior to being sleep-deprived and medicated.

Andy Coulson transitioned nicely from journalist to communications director for British Prime Minister David Cameron, but a royal phone-bugging scandal proved to be Coulson’s undoing. Coulson was editor of News of the World when it was discovered that two of its employees had hacked the phones of aides to Princes Harry and William. At the time, Coulson was cleared of wrongdoing. But The New York Times revealed that Coulson had encouraged them.

Ali Wise, former publicist for clothier Dolce and Gabbana, pleaded guilty in April 2010 to computer hacking charges. She broke into the voicemail account of a woman who had dated one of her former flames. Wise was ordered to perform 300 hours of community service and pay a $1,000 fine. A word to PR folks: If you plan to disgrace yourself, make sure your name doesn’t lend itself to headline irony and that your crime (hack) doesn’t rhyme with a nickname for your profession (flack). You’re making it too easy for these news guys.


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