"We Can Learn from Other's Mistakes," Says Reputation Advocate Managing Director

After a pair of awkward apology videos circulated the Internet, a well-known celebrity chef and cookbook author went from the frying pan right into the fire, reports Reputation Advocate's Steven Wyer.

Jun 28, 2013, 19:15 ET from Reputation Advocate

NASHVILLE, Tenn., June 28, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- The reputation disaster started last week when comments a celebrity cooking author known for her butter-laden recipes made in a deposition revealed unflattering remarks about the African-American community. Agreeing she may have used the N-word in the 1980s in a conversation with her husband about being robbed "when a black man burst into the bank that I was working at and put a gun to my head," she also admitted statements about an imaginary plantation-style wedding where all the servers would have been black. These remarks were part of sworn testimony in a civil lawsuit against the chef and her brother. The plaintiff is suing them for sexual harassment.

Partly blaming her childhood in the old South for the racist language, these comments drew the ire of social media users who ridiculed her behavior.

The rush to judgment from users on Facebook and Twitter likely propelled the embattled butter maven to quickly react in an effort to answer critics – which may explain her frantic, tearful disposition in videos published on YouTube. She apologized for "inappropriate, hurtful language" and begged for the public's forgiveness. Shortly after the release of a second video, the cable food network where most fans had come to love her announced its termination of her contract after 11 years.

Supporters established a Facebook page, which attracted over 300,000 followers. On the cable network's Facebook page, a recipe by the celebrity author garnered over 13,000 comments from fans criticizing the network's decision.

The court of public opinion has been cruel, but more damaging for the popular celebrity chef are the dismissals of her former business partners. In addition to her unceremonious departure from her signature show, she may experience further turmoil in regard to her corporate partnerships, as several other major companies that have featured her lines of cookware and have used her as a celebrity spokesperson have begun to cut ties for fear of a similar backlash.

An entertainment company that has featured themed restaurants in honor of the celebrity chef at four of its casinos in Indiana, Mississippi, Illinois and North Carolina also announced late this week that it will end its relationship with her. As satires poking fun at her distress have appeared everywhere from social media to Saturday Night Live, several critics have predicted her career is over.

When news of this magnitude damages the name of a celebrity or major corporation, the fallout can be devastating. In this case, a well-honed brand may be permanently tainted as a result of these remarks. Only a well-considered strategy with an emphasis on positive, life-affirming stories may help her to preserve what remains of a business empire built over decades. However, it's too soon to tell whether such efforts will be enough to salvage her online reputation.

Such an online reputation management fiasco further underscores an important point, says Steven Wyer of Reputation Advocate. Taking time to craft a sincere, honest apology that clearly and concisely delivers a targeted message is a much-preferred approach. Throwing something together only further hurt this celebrity chef's reputation, both on and offline.

Lesson to learn here? These are all prime examples of what not to do during a crisis.

Contact Reputation Advocate:
Steven Wyer

SOURCE Reputation Advocate