Crisis PR and avoiding the “Cosby Crisis”

This year was one of many changes. Perhaps one of the most formidable, however, was Bill Cosby’s unthinkable fall from sainthood once the news of several sexual abuse allegations began circulating.

According to Time, 16 women have accused Cosby of sexual abuse with 12 of these women reporting that he drugged them to do so. This is not the first time Cosby has been accused. In a 2005 trial, 13 women anonymously testified against Cosby in a sexual abuse case that was later settled out of court, according to Time. So why does everyone care 10 years later?

Comedian Hannibal Buress featured the household name’s allegations in his stand-up routine in October and social media exploded with responses according to The Holmes Report. It did not take long for more women, including past accuser Barbara Bowman, to speak with the media on the subject.

Since the initial blow, Cosby and his team of lawyers have released numerous denials and usually refuse to speak about the allegations with the media according to Time. The closest Cosby came to elaborating was when he told a Florida newspaper that, “a guy doesn’t have to answer to innuendos.”

Cosby’s civil rights lawyer, Gloria Allred, suggested a last resort strategy for the comedian. Allred said Cosby should consider waiving the statute of limitations that prohibits the women from filing lawsuits against him according to NBC News. Allred even suggested that Cosby establish a $100 million victims fund for those appearing before a panel of retired judges to determine the substantiation of their claims and how victims should be compensated NBC News reported.

Allred has a point. If Cosby has nothing to hide, why has he chosen to represent himself so poorly in front of the media? The blanket silence has only given fuel for suspense in the case of Bill Cosby. The biggest nightmare in PR is when the perception of your crisis has become worse the actual case.

According to The Holmes Report, there is little hope saying, “Cosby’s in too deep, for too long, with too many allegations against him, to survive and nothing has happened since this story broke to indicate resurrection or even rehabilitation.” The Cosby crisis demonstrates how the digital age has created a whole new rule book of brand transparency according to The Holmes Report. With one share or like a person can take a small message and reach thousands in seconds. In Cosby’s case, one woman’s story gained enough followers to encourage others to come forward as well. Perhaps this explains the curious delay in victim reaction. Maybe they simply lacked the tools to be heard.

Cosby’s story also teaches organizations that the digital age holds no secrets. Everything comes to light in the end. The best way to handle these crisis when they are resurrected is with immediate, thoughtful transparency.

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