By Shannon Samson, Media Relations Director
Oh, the power of celebrity.
TMZ has breathlessly reported Hollywood power couple Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie recently took their children to eat at a Subway restaurant in Glendale, California, prompting website Business Insider, Inc. to report, “The fact that the socially-conscious and wealthy couple took their children there sends the message that Subway is a family-friendly choice. With the Jared Fogle scandal looming, the brand needs this kind of exposure.”
With Brangelina being as big as it gets in the eyes of the world, site commenters have already speculated Subway paid them to take the kids on this highly-public family outing. Even if that were the case, would it be enough to free the sandwich chain from its fractured public image? Is there any hope this good PR would rub off on Fogle himself?
“What is happening is not spelling good things for his future; that’s for sure, no matter what the outcome,” Hirons COO Jim Parham told WTHR, “We all know the equation, perception becomes reality. There’s a lot of perception going on about this case and that may affect people’s reality and that can hurt the brand.”
The images were damning. FBI agents raided Jared Fogle’s Zionsville home and left with computer equipment, leaving everyone to guess it must have been in connection to the child pornography investigation of former Jared Foundation employee Russell Charles Taylor, Jr. We watched as Fogle walked silently and solemnly in the rain to his attorney’s car to get away from reporters camped outside his home.
“The only person Mr. Fogle should be speaking with right now is his attorney in order to have the cloak of the client-attorney privilege,” Hirons President and CEO Tom Hirons told host Rafael Sanchez on an RTV6 newcast. (Video here: https://www.youtube.com/embed/e8PhfqyC44s) Hirons said the two keys of crisis public relations are not to get ahead of the news and to get it right. “Once you know the facts, you want to move very quickly because that window will only be open a very short period of time and you want to get as much accurate information out as quickly as possible to control the situation.”
Subway released a statement the day of the raid, saying it was monitoring the situation closely. Later, a spokesperson said the company was terminating its relationship with the long-time spokesman. Fogle released a statement in May when Taylor was initially arrested, saying he was shocked by the allegations and severing ties with him. Since then, Fogle has been silent.
Hirons said that’s smart. “At this point, there is a lot of insinuation, but it’s really premature for him to make any statement or for anyone to be out in front of this issue.”
Since the raid, a former journalist in Florida has told reporters Fogle once made a suspicious remark to her about middle school girls which prompted the FBI investigation. Fogle’s attorneys, on the other hand, keep reminding everyone their client has not been charged with a crime. TMZ is reporting they’re even saying the raid was a complete bust.
If it does turn out that Fogle did nothing wrong, it is possible for him to rehabilitate his image. Parham cited the comeback stories of Michael Vick and Martha Stewart as examples. In those cases, however, juries had actually convicted those celebrities of crimes.
No doubt Fogle is hoping his name is cleared quickly. He’s lost his lucrative gig with Subway, charities have distanced themselves from him and media around the world are lumping his name in with the likes of Bill Cosby and Hulk Hogan. I am sure he much prefers Brangelina.