3 PR Lessons To Be Learned From the USA Gymnastics Scandal

Larry Nassar, the former USA Gymnastics team doctor has been accused by more than 140 women and girls of sexual abuse. In the wake of this scandal USA Gymnastics and the US Olympic Committee have received harsh criticism for fostering an environment, which allowed such abuse to take place.

Here are three lessons on how to avoid such a scandal and how to manage publicity if something like this ever occurs.

1. Stay true to your mission statement. USA Gymnastics states that their mission as an organization is to “Support athletes in their pursuit of competitive excellence.” Their website goes on to read, “USA Gymnastics is committed to fostering a safe, fun, and healthy environment for all members.” The purpose of a mission statement is to outline an organizations purpose and when that organization fails to uphold the values stated in their mission statement it loses credibility. In the case of USA Gymnastics the organization failed to protect its members resulting in immeasurable personal damages to these young gymnasts. In all your decision making check back in with your mission statement to ensure your actions align.

2. Act quickly and ethically. USA Gymnastics claims they reported Nassar’s abuse to the FBI when they first became aware of the allegations but they allowed him to continue to treat athletes while the investigation was ongoing. The safety and wellbeing of its athletes should be the number one priority for USAG and the second they learned of the disturbing allegations of abuse they should have acted in the best interest of the members of the organization and removed Nassar from his position.

3. Be transparent. When USAG first became aware of the allegations against Nassar they should have issued a statement telling the public that the organization is aware of the allegations and are working with law enforcement and providing support to its members who have accused him of abuse. Instead, USAG kept the issue quiet until the allegations were published by a newspaper leading the public to believe USAG attempted to cover up the story. In public relations is so important to be transparent when issues arise. This builds trust and shows that you are being proactive to find a reasonable solution.

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