Crisis Blog 1: Michael Phelps

Olympic gold metalist, Michael Phelps, had a photo surface that was not particularly flattering, some may say. The picture was of Phelps smoking supposedly marijuana out of a bong. Due to the fact that he is a public figure, he released this statement after the picture had made way into the eyes of many fans of his:

“I engaged in behavior which was regrettable and demonstrated bad judgment. I’m 23 years old and despite the successes I’ve had in the pool, I acted in a youthful and inappropriate way, not in a manner people have come to expect from me. For this, I am sorry. I promise my fans and the public it will not happen again.”

From a public relations standpoint there are components of this statement that I agree and disagree with. From Kathleen Fearn-Banks book, “Crisis Communications: A Casebook Approach” she discusses Apologia Theory. Within this theory, Fearn-Banks goes on to describe three different approaches to responding to a situation such as the picture of Michael Phelps being released. The three approaches are redefinition, dissociation, and conciliation. Phelps used the conciliation approach which states an individual should admit what he/she did as well as apologize for his/her actions.

Phelps did indeed admit that the picture was of him and he was smoking marijuana. He also did apologize to the public and promise that this would not happen again. However, I do not agree with what he said when he stated, “I’m 23 years old and despite the successes I’ve had in the pool, I acted in a youthful and inappropriate way”. I do not believe that his age should be used for an excuse for his actions. He understands that he is a public figure and a role model whom should behave like one. The rest of his statement to the public was honest and genuine. Due to his decisions and actions, Phelps lost his endorsement with Kellogg’s and Rosetta Stone. Overall, his statement was effective because he took responsibility for his actions but modifications could have been made to make this more successful.

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