Monday, December 30, 2013

The Last Quack

My favorite Duck Dynasty controversy headline is from GQ magazine (the one that triggered it all), “What the Duck?,” forecasting the latest example of media and public relations “expert” miscalculation.

While A&E was being roasted and toasted by lots of commentators and communicators, my guess is that executives at A&E were getting bruises on their chests and on their hands from all the chest bumping and high-fiving going on since the controversy about this show started.

Look, A&E is an alternative channel carrying a variety of what one might characterize as “off-beat” stories and series. This is their product; this is their brand. Besides, “Duck” is 50% of their profits. Since when does moral outrage defeat economic reality in our democracy?

“Duck” achieved the quinfecta of television “buzz” success:
  1. Controversy
  2. Contention
  3. Consternation
  4. Conflict
  5. Confrontation
Clearly A&E over-reacted by suspending Phil Robertson, the head of the family featured in the series. And, using some rather silly PR advice, tried to explain what Phil was doing, what Phil’s rationale was, and all that stuff. Obviously what Phil was doing was being Phil. And those who watch the show, a minimum of 14 million viewers a week, showed just how deep Phil’s feelings and ideas actually flow through American culture.

As of last Friday, was hosting nearly 30 petition sites with more than 300,000 signatures demanding or asking for the return of Phil Robertson to the show, and just 2,543 asking or demanding his ouster. A&E executives capitulated over the weekend and are probably resting today through New Year’s, letting their bruises heal. But I’m sure they’ll start up again with the new numbers that the next show generates.

Who knows? Maybe with all this enthusiastic negative attention the show’s audience will reach 20 million by New Year’s Day. The Duck gets the last quack after all.

James E. Lukaszewski, ABC, APR, Fellow PRSA is the author of Lukaszewski on Crisis Communication, What Your CEO Needs to Know About Reputation Risk and Crisis Management, available now at

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