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What to do about bad messaging

  February 4, 2022

Guilt by association.  It's real.  If your employee, partner, team member, or anyone associated with you does or says something that publicly embarrasses you and negatively impacts your brand, you need to act quickly.  Social Media doesn't wait for regular office hours.

You don't want their messaging to become yours.  Some examples:

  • When Robert Kennedy Jr. compared vaccine mandates to the horror of what Anne Frank endured during the Holocaust, there was blowback.  His wife, actress Cheryl Hines, issued a statement calling her husband's comments, "reprehensible."  She clearly has different views than her husband and wanted the public to know it.  In the end Kennedy apologized but it look him a while.  
  • When racist posts by a star of "The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City" resurfaced, Bravo network fired her.  But not before admitting it "failed to take appropriate action" when first learning of the controversial posts.  Maybe executives thought they could wait and see if the issue would go undetected.  It didn't.
  • When a New York actress took to Tik Tok to blast the city for street closures during the funeral of a police officer, there was understandable outrage.  Her employer fired her saying it did not "support or condone these comments."  What company wouldn't want to distance itself from this?  It's not just a prudent business move, but also a moral one.
  • When Spotify realized that its stock price was plummeting over the Joe Rogan podcast mess.  At first it appeared the company was willing to simply lose artists rather than upset Rogan and his millions of followers.  Days in, the company decided that it will add advisories to any podcasts with COVID discussions.  That seems to be a bit like "splitting the baby" to me.  Spotify keeps Rogan but offers an olive branch to those concerned with his content.  Even Rogan is onboard with the change. NOTE: since this piece was first posted on our blog, a videotape has surfaced showing Rogan using a racial slur, many times over many years on his podcast.  I will be interested to see how Spotify explains how executives didn't know this.  Rogan's apology today is not enough.
  • When ABC News suspended "The View" host Whoopi after her statements on the Holocaust and race.  Despite her prompt apology, the network apparently felt this was too big to let it go at that.  She demonstrated an incredible lack of understanding of the issue.  I give "The View" producers credit for booking the CEO of the Anti Defamation League who gave a brief history lesson for those who needed it.  There's been debate over whether the network overreacted, but executives had to consider the fast and furious blowback Whoopi's statement was receiving.

These examples may seem like 'cancel culture' to some.  I think of it as businesses or individuals protecting their brands or being true to their values.  People who've worked hard to build a career, a reputation, or a thriving business know the importance of staying on their messaging and brand.

Crisis Communications Quick Tips if you find yourself guilty by association...

  1. Comb through social media posts and traditional media hits to take the public's temperature.
  2. Gather your thought leaders and access the situation honestly.
  3. Craft a clear statement and post to your social media sites.
  4. Consider creating a short video or doing traditional media interviews.
  5. Measure the public response.
  6. Stay true to your mission, but realize you may need to take bolder steps to bring an end to this crisis.

If you want to be pro-active consider taking a Crisis Communications workshop.  Every crisis is unique but there are some basics that should be in your plans.  

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