Penn State Enlists Ketchum for Crisis Communications

Omnicom Group Agency Hired by University's Board Amid Sandusky Sexual Abuse Scandal

By Published on .

Penn State University's Board of Trustees has enlisted Omnicom Group agency Ketchum for crisis communications counsel, the firm told Ad Age .

The agency selection follows news related to allegations of child sexual abuse charges made against former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky.

Mr. Sandusky broke his silence on Monday, denying charges that he sexually abused young boys and that he's a pedophile. In an interview on NBC's "Rock Center," he said: "I could say that I have done some of those things. I have horsed around with kids. I have showered after workouts. I have hugged them and I have touched their legs without intent of sexual contact."

Although a number of senior-level administrators at Penn State were subpoenaed about the matter earlier this year, the university brought in Ketchum on Sunday, Nov. 6.

That was a day after Mr. Sandusky was arrested and charged with 40 counts of sexual abuse of eight young boys over a 15-year period. Mr. Sandusky abruptly retired in 1999. Shortly after Mr. Sandusky's arrest, as the story reached a media crescendo, a number of sponsors withdrew their support.

On Nov. 8, the firm assisted with a press conference during which the vice chairman announced that Mr. Paterno and university President Graham Spanier were stepping down.

It's likely that the connection between the PSU board and Ketchum was made through an existing or former agency client. Ketchum is better known as a consumer PR shop rather than a crisis-communications firm, but it has a team of around 50 crisis executives domestically. It's understood that a few team members are currently on the ground at PSU's campus.

Ketchum declined to provide any detail about its relationship with Penn State, while Penn State representatives could not immediately be reached for comment.

Sound off in our poll: As far as Penn State itself is concerned, is the sexual-abuse scandal beyond the power of crisis communications and PR at this point?

Most Popular
In this article: