Pugh-blic Relations 101

POP asked one past and one current PR pro to give Charles Pugh some crisis management advice.

charles-pugh-webCharles Pugh could use some public relations/crisis management advice.

He may not be able to afford it, however, after Detroit Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr stripped Pugh of his salary as Detroit City Council President for being AWOL from Council meetings.

With that in mind, Page One Post asked a couple of PR professionals to give Pugh free advice on how he should be handling charges that he engaged in inappropriate relations with a teenage boy. A police report was reportedly filed against Pugh by the boy’s mother, and she is threatening to file a civil lawsuit against Pugh, the Detroit Public Schools, and other entities. Pugh has not been seen publically in Detroit for weeks. (There are unconfirmed reports that he was spotted at a Starbucks store in Seattle.) As of today, Pugh has not responded to the allegations, nor to the actions by Orr.

Sam Locricchio, Senior Vice President at Hill & Knowlton

Public relations strategy is sometimes viewed as this lofty, directly-from-the-tablets pontification. In your case, “keep it simple, stupid” should be your mantra.

Come back. Be honest. Admit immediately that your handling of the City Council situation was childish and inexcusable. Apologize to people of the City of Detroit who you were elected to serve.

Your time away gave you clarity. Share what that clarity taught you as a life lesson going forward (#1 is, you can’t run from your frustrations/problems.)

Recognize PR is not a quick fix or “spin.” It is what it advertises: Relating with the Public. Not avoiding it.

Control what you can control. That means have answers ready as to why or what transpired with City Council. As for the seemingly impending investigation, indicate you are prepared to cooperate fully so the truth can ultimately be told.

Much of this is speculation based on what we don’t know. Work to eliminate as much of the “don’t know” factor in the public’s mind or they will fill in the blanks….real or imagined.

Bud Liebler, Owner at The Whitney, and former head of marketing and communications at Chrysler

Get your story, facts and timeline straight. Come out of hiding, ‘fess up, apologize if necessary, and face the consequences. The longer the uncertainty and mystery goes on, the more and worse the media coverage will be.




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James E. Kenyon

James is the publisher and editor of Page One Post. He was a newspaper reporter in Detroit and Norfolk, VA, before working in the corporate communications departments at a number of Michigan companies. His last stint was 18 years at Chrysler Corporation, where he handled media relations, product and marketing PR and speech writing. He retired from Chrysler in 2007. He enjoys listening to jazz, good cigars and bourbon Manhattans, often at the same time. He and his partner, Melba, live in Detroit's Rosedale Park neighborhood.