Chris Brown and the Need to Get Crisis PR Right

December 18th, 2009

D to F-list celebrity train wrecks make regular news today, for better or worse.  (This blog will comment periodically on how such trends decay the aesthetic of legitimate media, but that’s another article for another day.)  Certainly there’s an appetite for such foibles, and given that celeb media is relentlessly aggressive, the targets obviously have their own niche media needs.

More often than not, those media relations veer toward the realm of crisis PR and crisis management.  And, a primary reason we view these dilemmas from the public relations perspective is that celebrities perplexingly make things worse for themselves.  Makes you wonder who’s giving them advice not just in media relations, but in matters of life and morality.

Take a look at the Chris Brown debacle.  I won’t waste space to recount all the sad details of his recent criminal behavior, but clearly the guy is getting terrible crisis PR and crisis management advice – when you’re accusing Walmart of sabotaging your career, you’re playing the conspiracy card a bit too aggressively and come across as a loose cannon in the press.

Since his arrest, Brown’s devolution and demoted status are the result of a series of very bad decisions.  What could he have done differently?  A few points to consider – and of course, none of these alternate-universe recommendations have any worth unless a crisis pr client has sincere remorse, period.

When you do something wrong, apologize immediately.  This is Crisis Management 101.  Your lawyer may tell you differently, but a celebrity must assume that evidence of bad deeds are leak-prone.  No point in stalling the inevitable, so immediately issue a thoughtful and remorseful apology – and again, you have to mean it.

Step away from rapid-fire social media.  Since his arrest, Brown made stupid comments on Youtube about “haters” that made him look incredibly insensitive, and as mentioned above lashed out at corporate America on Twitter.  Dressing flashy at your criminal hearings also looks bad; if you’re in court make it strictly business attire – this isn’t the time for a fashion show.

Until people forgive, do not engage in openly commercial behaviorNothing looks more crass than an abusive person looking to make money immediately after their incident.  It smacks of disgusting opportunism and the inability to appreciate the consequence of your actions.  Brown should take at least a year off from music; after selling millions of records he certainly doesn’t need the money.  And when you do go back to music, donate all the profits of your next album to a domestic violence shelter, and dedicate your music to all people who have suffered from domestic abuse.

Words are meaningless if your actions don’t support them.  With that year off, instead of touring concert halls, tour the country and speak to students about why domestic abuse is wrong, and how students can work with educators, families and communities to put an end to this awful scourge.

Through such altruistic actions, Brown would give the tabloid press absolutely nothing to write about with his behavior, because there’s nothing sensational anymore.  Being boring is sometimes the right thing to do.

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