Southwark Consulting is pleased to announce the launch of a new blog series, “Engage”, which examines the new social media and mobile environment and offers case studies and advice on how to navigate this evolving landscape. These stories will be published every second Thursday.
This opening piece looks at the current situation with respect to Bill Cosby, and why he needs to thoroughly resolve his sexual assault allegations, if he wants to move forward with his career.
This is a good examination in terms of crisis management, and how important it is to deal thoroughly, and honestly, with situations which under more traditional circumstances, prior to social media and the ‘free marketing space’, would have become less important with time.
Why Cosby Needs to Resolve Sexual Assault Allegations: A Marketing Lesson
Lack of direct control over the dialogue should force Cosby to be forthright.
Bill Cosby is back in the national conversation, and no doubt the iconic figure is not thrilled. But why are we now talking about the comedian and his behaviors that appeared to be settled eight years ago?
Another comedian, Hannibal Buress, recently addressed Cosby’s rape allegations in a stand-up show in Philadelphia; the clip was recorded and it was published in Phillymag.com. This action sparked a frenzy of dialogue in the space that we refer to as the Free Marketing space, described here:
Free Marketing is defined as content that is about a brand, but is written by those outside the direct control of the brand (typically customers). The content is “Free” in the sense of Freedom of Speech.
If you replace “Brand” with Cosby, and “customer” with fans of Cosby (and those who followed the original rape allegations), you understand how Cosby and his PR folks do not control the conversation. The Free Marketing space was initially developed by the internet, then further strengthened by social media and the ubiquitous access provided by mobile devices.
The accusations leveled at Cosby appeared to be settled in 2006, despite thirteen additional women willing to offer similar allegations. That court settlement did not appease many of those that followed the issue at the time. While the conversation seemed to die shortly after the settlement, and this may well have been the case prior to the development of the Free Marketing space, the conversation did not die, it merely went dormant.
It was waiting for a spark to bring it back to life (the video clip from Buress’ show) followed by additional conversation online and in mainstream media, that was then exacerbated by Cosby’s team’s misguided meme, which created a means to further add fuel to the dialogue. And now a third accuser has come forward.
In this era of the lack of direct control that brands and people have over these conversations, the only way to resolve an issue is through forthright and transparent engagement. Anything short of this, and the conversation will steer its own course, a course that is guided by those who are not controlled by the brand, or the comedian in this case. A conversation may go dormant, but a simple spark brings it back to life.