There’s a level of irony somewhere in the fact that the winner of this year’s award – an award represented by the loveable and aloof character of a popular 80-90’s family sitcom – was himself the star of the show that paved the way for sitcoms like Family Matters.
On November 10th, Bill Cosby (his social team) posted a photo of himself on Twitter inviting the Internet to meme him.
Good idea, right? Memes are all the rage these days… the kids love ’em. And with such a loveable character like Cosby, this kind of stunt could only magnify his already popular persona. Unfortunately for Cosby, this coincided with the resurgence of rape allegations against the 77-year-old actor thanks in part to comedian, Hannibal Buress, who had been touring with a new standup act that dedicated a portion of the skit to the allegations. Buress actually prompted those who couldn’t fathom Cosby would commit such horrid acts to see it for themselves, saying “If you didn’t know about it, when you leave here, Google ‘Bill Cosby rape.’ It’s not funny”.
Suffice to say, asking the internet, which had started to become abuzz with chatter relating to the alleged crimes, to go ahead and create their memes was a really, reallllly terrible idea. Cosby’s short-sighted PR folks probably expected the memes to be wholesome interpretations of Cosby’s goofy humor. Wrong. This is what they got instead:
“Fans” used the web tool to highlight past accusations against Cosby, and lots of them. Just as with #Imametsfanbecause back in September, yet another social media campaign backfired in spectacular fashion.
So what was the science used to determine the award should go to Cosby and his PR? It was a calculation of sheer stupidity X cluelessness.
In order to be an effective PR person you have to know your client. Whether they are a person or an institution, you must know their past present and the direction in which they wish to go. You are tasked to promote and protect their reputation amidst any confluence of events that might jeopardize it.
This instance, like so many others, could have been avoided entirely if just a little brain power was applied. Case in point: the allegations against Cosby are not new, they’ve been around for years, surfacing here and there, only to fade away under Cosby’s indelible role as one of America’s most loveable dads. As Cosby’s PR team, you should know this and avoid any action that may trigger the scandal to become newsworthy again. What they did was just the opposite.
So, for excising zero intelligence and ignoring all the basics of PR, congratulations to Cosby and team on taking this year’s top spot.
2015 might be a rough one for Bill. And for his social team, this sums it up perfectly:
Maybe you can form a group with all the other nominees and go on a redemption tour to educate budding PR pros on exactly what NOT to do.