UNC Reveals the Scary Price of Crisis Comms

unc_logo_c_32a691In news we missed yesterday, the University of North Carolina paid Edelman $782,000 for “several months” of service, but its reputation isn’t anywhere close to being repaired.

The school felt the need to hire the firm earlier this Summer, when a former student-turned-whistleblower sought to bring more attention to the long-simmering academic fraud scandal enveloping the school by revealing that his “tutors” did most of his work for him.

Not content, he blew the whistle again last week — and now the world knows that more than 3,000 student athletes got what amounts to a free pass for classes that, in many cases, didn’t even exist.

The New York Times report was brutal.

So of course we get why UNC felt the need to double down on its crisis comms efforts. But note the disparity between rates: in 2013, the school made headlines for distributing half a million dollars in fees to FleishmanHillard, Sheehan Associates, and political consultant Doug Sosnik.

That total was for two full years of work, while Edelman’s fees for work starting this summer are more than twice what UNC paid Fleishman. A spokesman offered some clarity on the new firm’s more expansive role, saying:

“Edelman supports UNC-Chapel Hill’s management of media relations, content creation (digital, social media and websites), strategic services (such as video production), internal communications, and other related areas. Many universities engage public relations agencies for a range of services.”

He forgot to add that UNC will continue to do so, because there’s so much work left to be done.