3 PR Lessons We Can Learn from Keith Olbermann

By: Sean Donnelly, Director of Chapter Development

The entire Penn State community has some pretty harsh opinions surrounding sports and political commentator, Keith Olbermann. Recently, Keith Olbermann dissed Penn State University and the NCAA for the restoration of Joe Paterno’s 409 wins. He went on a social media tirade that resulted in a growing conflict between Olbermann and supporters of the Penn State community. Weeks later, THON came and went, resulting in over $13,000,000 being raised for pediatric cancer. A Penn State alum tweeted a link to the THON total at Keith Olbermann with a “We Are!” message. Olbermann responded with “…Pitiful,” and the rest is history. So what can we learn from this?

Be Thorough

It was obvious that Olbermann did not click the link that was tweeted at him that sparked the “batting practice” comment. In his apology, he admitted to this and said he applauds those who devote their money, time and energy to THON. However, it was too late. A powerful figure in media, Olbermann opened a huge can of worms by not following the link. Before saying anything that may come off as ill-contrived, you must do your homework. That way, if backlash does happen, you have your research to rely on.

If Wrong, Admit it

At one point in his series of tweets to Penn State fans, Olbermann realized the tweet sent to him was the final total from THON. Instead of backing off and admitting his careless mistake, he continued to rant about the legitimacy of a Penn State education. He retweeted fans who made grammar mistakes and typos, corrected them, and denounced their education. Olbermann has had a reputation of being a bully, but this time, he took it to a whole new level. It was completely inappropriate, and he suffered from it.


Did Olbermann apologize? Sort of. He apologized, and went on to claim that he has donated over 200 times to St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital and Make-A-Wish Foundation, but with no mention of THON. He offered a bizarre apology and comparison between his mistakes on Twitter to “batting practice.” Needless to say, his apology came off half-hearted, forced, and self-serving in an attempt to preserve his own reputation. When apologizing for any wrongdoing, the public will know if you are truly sincere or if it is merely just to save face.

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