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PR expert: President Simon’s resignation letter made MSU crisis worse

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Lou Anna Simon

Matt Friedman is co-founder of Tanner-Friedman, a Michigan-based public relations firm. He's worked with universities in the past, and says Lou Anna Simon's resignation letter has accomplished a PR first: it's worsened MSU's crisis.

“It’s really the way that the letter was written,” he said. “The tone in the letter and a lot of the language in the letter has now allowed the resignation to bleed into a second day.”

“We’re talking about this now instead of talking about the university moving forward somehow, and that’s really what the resignation letter should have done.”

“It should have been very succinct. It should have been focused on the university, and not on her. Instead, it was very defensive and included a lot of language that has a lot of people talking today.”

On talking too much about herself

“She mentioned herself in the first sentence when trying to call attention to the victims and how tough it's been for them, and for her,” Friedman said. “And I think that started a really unfortunate tone where she wrote a lot about herself and how this has impacted her."

"She has been paid to lead the university, and represent the university. And this is all supposed to be about the university and its academic mission in our state, not about any one individual.”

On using the words “cover-up”

“The other thing that really jumped out at me is it mentions the words, ‘cover-up.’ She now owns that language, and that had been language, maybe, that others had used to accuse her of something and now she’s owning that language too."

“Now I’m understanding here that I’m talking about some inside PR stuff, on how we word letters and word documents. But that matters. The language that a leader uses in communication is what resonates with audiences, and I think that’s why this letter felt so flat, at best, last night.”

For the full conversation, listen above.

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