Celebrity Rantings: When Buzz Goes Bust

Celebrity Rantings Pop Quiz

The cancellation of the “Roseanne” reboot due to Roseanne Barr’s tweet about Valerie Jarrett was:

  • An egregious violation of Roseanne’s free speech rights.
  • An appropriate response to Roseanne’s vicious racist outburst.
  • A hypocritical response from ABC, who knew exactly what they were getting into with Roseanne, considering that she tweeted in 2013 that [Obama’s National Security Advisor] “Susan Rice is a man with big swinging ape balls.”

Samantha Bee’s on-air apology for calling Ivanka Trump a “feckless c—t” on her TBS show “Full Frontal” was:

  • A nowhere-near-good-enough response to her disgusting and misogynistic comment—she should have been fired!
  • An appropriate response to an outburst that crossed a line but was otherwise justified.
  • A hypocritical response that allowed her to keep her show on the air but meant nothing.

We could add so many more names and incidents to this pop quiz: Kanye West, Kathy Griffin, Bill Maher, Charlie Sheen, among way too many others (sadly) to list.

For me, the bigger issue is how do brands—who love the high-profile that celebrities offer—dodge the fallout when (or preferably before) celebrity rantings threaten to tar the brand’s image? Here are a few suggestions to help brands keep their image free of mud.

Remember: Celebrity Rantings are Not a Joke

Comedians, politicians, rappers, and shock jocks, relish their ability to stun, stupefy, shake up, and yes, even offend with their words and actions. It kind of comes with the territory. I mean, aside from Ellen DeGeneres (girl crush alert!), Jim Gaffigan, and Jerry Seinfeld, what other G-rated comedians can you name? If you represent a brand that wants to play it completely safe, don’t partner with personalities who specialize in edgy humor in the first place. Because the joke’s on you if you do.

What State Are You Living In?

Speaking of jokes, have you ever heard the one that goes, “What state do you live in—Denial?” Rule numero uno: If a celebrity has offended in the past, he or she will do it again in the future. That’s why I find it somewhat hypocritical for ABC and ICM to fire Barr so quickly. What she tweeted was reprehensible, but it was not inconsistent with her celebrity rantings in the past. These companies knew what they were getting into but refused to see it because they had dollar signs in their eyes.

So, as much as you might adore a celebrity in private and want to believe in them, don’t let your personal feelings overshadow your assessment of them as a potential brand spokesperson. A leopard—and a tweeting celebrity—can’t change his or her spots.

 Dip Your Toe Into the Circles They Swim In

I once worked with a two-time Oscar-winning, leading-man actor who, to this day, is known to be one of the nicest men in showbiz. He literally puts George Clooney to shame. So imagine my dismay when I discovered that he was represented by one of the meanest publicists in town. The experience taught me an important lesson: Celebrities sometimes let other people do their dirty work for them. Maybe your Mr. Nice Guy will never engage in celebrity rantings—but why would you invite his Toxic Avenger into your business dealings? Trust me—you’ll interact 10 times more with the celebrity’s peeps than you ever will with them personally.

Pull a Disney

I guess it’s not too surprising that the Mouse House, known for it’s family-friendly image, would have some pretty stringent talent policies. I found a Screen Rant article about these rules, and made a few interesting discoveries: #14, for instance, claims that Disney maintains control over their talent’s social media postings. In addition, #10 says that their stars are “told exactly how to talk” and #6 says “they are forced to take classes on scandals and social media.” In case you’re wondering, #1 is “They aren’t allowed to smoke.” Over the top, right?!

Well, call me a prude, but these are just the kind of mandates I was going to suggest myself! I guess Roseanne Barr never received her rulebook, never read it, or thought the rules wouldn’t apply to someone of her elevated stature. Hello, pink slip!

If you’re looking at hiring an outspoken celebrity representative, I suggest creating an old-fashioned morals clause that gives you an out should they decide to…act out.

In short, celebrity spokespersons are like laptops—we love them when they do what they’re supposed to do, and we want to throw them out the window when they don’t. So if you’re hiring a highly visible, highly vocal social media rock star to rep your brand, make sure you’ve got the celebrity equivalent of Apple Care. It will protect your investment against a whole host of man- (or woman-) made celebrity rantings and the disastrous brand repercussions bound to follow as a result.