More and more we are seeing the power of social media. A tweet can set off a thousand retweets and skyrocket a new company or brand off the charts. It can also destroy and derail a career as the Grammy winning singer/rapper, CeeLo Green, best known as one of the original judges of NBC’s “The Voice” found out recently.
CeeLo had been accused of sexual battery in 2012 by a woman. The Los Angeles Police Department investigated the allegations and after a yearlong investigation, the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office determined there was insufficient evidence to prosecute him on the allegations. However stemming from the investigation, CeeLo pleaded guilty to a felony charge of furnishing a controlled substance. He received three years’ probation and community service.
That should have been the end of the story. Yet it wasn’t and a Twitter-caused firestorm erupted when CeeLo tweeted several comments about his case, particularly on the subject of rape.
Among his tweets were: “People who have really been raped REMEMBER!!!”; “When someone brakes on a home there is broken glass where is your plausible proof that anyone was raped.”; and “If someone is passed out they’re not even WITH you consciously! so WITH Implies consent,”
There was immediate and justified outrage to his reprehensible tweets from fans and in both traditional and social media. TBS that had aired his reality television show announced that they were cancelling “The Good Life”. Green issued an apology and deleted his Twitter account.
Yet much damage has been done to his reputation. Can he recover? Perhaps.
From a crisis communications standpoint there several things that need to be done (and it must be done sincerely).
- Issue a new strong and forceful apology, taking full responsibility for his tweets, apologizing to everyone he offended, particularly rape victims, and acknowledging the enormity of rape and its impact.
- Sit down for a hard-hitting interview discussing what he did, why he tweeted what he did, apologizing sincerely, and discussing how this can be used as a learning experience.
- Step back and go silent.
- Take sensitivity training.
- Become involved without publicizing it with rape help organizations such as RAINN.
- After a period of six months or so emerge from a media blackout.
- Let others tell of how he has changed and helped spread the message.
Will this strategy entirely rehabilitate Ceelo’s image? No but it will help him to survive if done sincerely. This is also a cautionary tale of the power of social media that once you post something, it can never be entirely deleted and a social media firestorm will lead to a traditional media disaster.