It’s been a grim year for the queens of cookery. First Paula Deen was disgraced when part of a court deposition brought down her multi-million dollar empire and cost her all but one of her many sponsorships. Now Nigella Lawson finds herself in court, facing accusations of being a cocaine addict.
The case is not against Lawson herself. Charges have been brought against Francesca and Lisa Grillo, two sisters who were housekeepers to Nigella Lawson and her now ex husband Charles Saatchi. The sisters worked for the famous couple for over ten years, but were recently accused of fraud after spending nearly $1.15 million on Saatchi’s credit cards. The Grillos allege that they were allowed to use the cards by Saatchi to cover up Lawson’s drug abuse.
Will the accusations cause the same fall from grace that Deen suffered? It’s unlikely. PRs have analyzed both women and point first to Nigella’s saucy image as a saving grace. With her sexy cookery presentations, tales of drug use will hardly shock her constituency. Her following may even excuse it in sympathy for putting up with an abusive husband.
THE PR VERDICT: “C” (Distinctly OK) for Nigella Lawson. While no one needs a day in court, she may walk out of chambers unscathed.
THE PR TAKEAWAY: Know when to employ PR damage control. In the case of Paula Deen, outside PR experts should have been hired immediately; bad press after all can be minimized. Is Nigella Lawson the next Paula Deen? No. The news is scandalous but such is her brand equity she can take a couple of hits, after all she has public sympathy on her side. Weigh image, consumer, and reaction; then decide if it’s time to let a pro step in.