It seems Paula Deen's scandal could have been averted but it blew up because her team dropped the ball in the beginning, says Healy Baumgardner-Nardone. A crisis management expert with Mona Lisa Communications in West Virginia, Baumgardner-Nardone says that the time the lawsuit was filed by the employee, this put a high-profile and successful person at the greatest exposure possible. "From a media and PR perspective, lawsuits can be written in a very expose, tabloid-esque fashion to sound very scandalous and very alleging and they are protected against being considered slander or libel," says Baumgardner-Nardone.
In the Paula Deen case, the plaintiff's lawyer did just that and did a great job, says Baumgardner-Nardone, adding that this lawsuit is "definitely a page turner."
According to Baumgardner-Nardone, you need to stay in front of your message and be proactive and you need to come up with a strategy to diffuse the situation quickly and to manage control. She believes that Deen's exposure was not managed legally or in the press and that the lawsuit should have been handled by her legal team as a "ticking time bomb."
If there was no wrong-doing by Paula Deen, her legal team should have gotten in front of this immediately, vis a vis an immediate response to the initial claim, filed with discovery and come up with a media strategy attached to that, says Baumgardner-Nardone. That, she says, would have put the plaintiff in the defensive position and Paula Deen's camp could have found holes in the case and used that to her defense in the public's eye.
The sequence of events that followed were especially damaging and if she's going to build a multi-million dollar empire, she needs to surround herself with people to train her for these situations, which she hadn't, notes Baumgardner-Nardone.
Mona Lisa Communications specializes and are experts in combining the necessary component to managing situations, such as Paula Deen's, to include brand management, crisis communication, media relations and legal strategy. Baumgardner-Nardone says that they work very closely with trial lawyers in order to put together a cohesive element of all these things and make things as bullet-proof as possible.
Baumgardner-Nardone believes that Paula Deen needs a new camp across the board and to go dark as quickly as possible. "The more she stays public, the more damage she'll do," adding that it will get worse before it gets better. "All of this could have been avoided with settling the case," notes Baumgardner-Nardone.
Nealy Baumgardner-Nardone is a crisis management expert and CEO and Founder of Mona Lisa Communications in West Virginia. She is also the public relations and media consulting partner of Sequence Media Group & Litigation War Room and is focused on the combining of legal strategy, media management and successful public relations in the most difficult of high profile legal issues. This video was broadcast by The Legal Broadcast Network, providing online, on-demand legal video content.