Ask Duke How to Handle Negative Publicity

No one likes bad publicity.  It can be a thorn in your side because not only can it ruin your public image and reputation but it can have a life shelf of FOREVER thanks to social media.

But if you want to know how to get rid of negative publicity (or gloss it over), you might want to consult with Duke University.  From my view, they are the masters of turning a horribly, bad situation into a positive one.  So why do I say this?

Here’s the deal:  While exercising around the Duke Campus Wall this summer, I noticed the construction of a new building on Buchanan Blvd.  This beautiful new, stand-out, green building sits on the same grounds where another building used to be.  That structure, located at 610 Buchanan Blvd, was dingy and white and the scene of one of the biggest scandals to rock the Duke University campus back in 2006.   It was known as the Duke University Lacrosse rape scandal and it brought out the ugliness of white privilege, class and race.  But when you drive down that same street today, you probably won’t even remember where the “scene of the alleged crime” took place because the evidence no longer exists.

So how do you get rid of negative publicity?


buchanan_boulevard_house-400x300rsz_1dukeGet Rid of the Evidence:  That’s what Duke did.  After the alleged incident in 2006, the building on the left remained vacant until it was demolished in 2010.  This year you now see this beautiful green structure that gives no signs of anything terrible ever happening on that street. All you see is a nice, quaint neighborhood full of greenery and big homes.  It’s kind of like an “out of sight out of mind” mentality.

610 Buchanan Blvd old versus new structure

Let Time Pass:  Unlike remembering the victim(s) of a terrible crime, the local media has not dug back into its archives to remind us of what allegedly happened on the night of March 13, 2006.  It’s probably because all charges were dropped against the Duke Lacrosse boys and they have gone on to, not only settle with the University for a reported $20 million each, but also landed great paying jobs.  Reade Seligmann ended up graduating from Brown University, and then went to law school at Emory University. At last report, he was working as a law clerk at the U.S. District Court in New Jersey. Collin Finnerty finished his degree at Loyola College in Maryland. At last report, he was working as an analyst at Deutsche Bank. David Evans who was a senior at the time of the scandal, graduated from Duke in 2008 and is now working at Apax Partners, a private equity and venture capital firm, as a Senior Associate in the Consumer team.

Attack the Credibility of the Accuser:  Since I wasn’t there that night, I don’t know what happened but in my heart of hearts I believe something did.  Was it rape?  Perhaps not but when you get a bunch of drunk ass white boys who think they’re privileged, at the very least there was some trash talking about superiority and race.  Over the course of the scandal, however, police reports, media investigations, and defense attorneys’ motions and press conferences brought to light several key inconsistencies in Crystal Mangum’s story.   Of course, she didn’t help her case any by not being able to clearly identify her alleged attackers.  Later we learned that the victim had a troubled past and may have had some deeply rooted mental issues and the media wasted no time using them against her.  Her “troubles” landed her in prison in 2013 after being found guilty of the second degree murder of her boyfriend, a crime she says she committed in self defense because he was assaulting her.

Focus of the Positive:  In 2010, Duke won its first NCAA lacrosse championship.  In the 2013 season, Duke won a second and in 2014, Duke won their third lacrosse championship.  Of course, we all know what the Duke Blue Devils basketball team does year after year.

So if you find yourself facing some negative publicity, feel free to take a page out of Duke’s history and keep it movin’.


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