The career of UC Davis Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi has allegedly been derailed by a faulty reputation management campaign. Following a series of incidents that culminated in a nasty outbreak of violence in November 2011, during which students were pepper sprayed by police, Katehi was cashiered from her position. Katehi’s credentials had been under scrutiny for quite some time before this, as her previous tenure as provost of University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign had been dogged by allegations concerning the awarding of preference in admissions to the children of politically influential backers.
$400,000 Allegedly Spent In Reputation Management Campaign
According to emerging reports, Katehi attempted to salvage her position as well as her public reputation by hiring a reputation management firm. She then allegedly spent the amazing sum of $400,000 attempting to scrub her reputation clean by, among other things, repeatedly doctoring her Brand Yourself page. Bizarrely, rather than simply delete and rewrite the negative opinions that repeatedly showed up on the page, the firm she hired chose to simply add new and conflicting information to what was already there.
Reputation Management The Wrong Way
The case of Katehi’s follies seems to be a textbook example of how to conduct a reputation management campaign in exactly the wrong manner. Being known to the world as the college Dean that allowed police to spray chemical irritants into the eyes of protesting students is a reputation no one desires. However, did Katehi really need to spend $400,000 in a failed reputation management bid? The amount of the final tally is especially egregious when one realizes that absolutely nothing was accomplished.
Reputation management techniques can absolutely work to repair damage done to a person’s public image. However, when repeated public misconduct is added to consistent ineptness in applying these techniques, there is little to be gained. The moral of this story would perhaps run along the lines of the impossibility of even the best reputation management techniques to work their magic when the subject of the attempt insists on sabotaging their own personal career and public perception.