Social media can be a great tool for celebrities and brands to engage their fans. We see it all of the time, celebrities do promotions, ask fans questions and do silly things to get people’s attention. However, not all social media posts are created equal or generate desired attention, just ask Bill Cosby.
Last week, Bill Cosby (or his PR team) tweeted a wholesome photo of him from his Twitter account asking his nearly 4 million fans to go to his website and create a meme of him. What started out as a fun-loving, nostalgic post quickly turned into something more. Despite the “tip-of-the-hat” hopes his PR team tried to evoke from his followers, this meme generator turned out to be a BIG mistake. Sure, this tactic may have worked for other celebrities, but due to the recent resurfacing of Cosby’s 2006 rape allegations this did not turn out as they expected.
Almost instantly, Twitter users began using the meme generator to create not-so-nice memes of the Jell-O spokesperson while referencing his sexual assault allegations. Some of posts included quotes such as “”Look at this wacky shirt I’m wearing, also I am a serial rapist” and “”My two favorite things: Jello pudding and rape.” According to the New York Post, “a few hours after the meme generator’s launch, Twitter users realized the word “rape” was being removed. In fact, when the words “rape,” “rapist” and “sex” were typed in, they all cleared out. That didn’t stop critics from having their say, though.” Thousands of memes were generated, most of which had nothing nice to say about “The Cosby Show” star despite the fact that he was never formally convicted of rape.
This whole situation seemed a bit usual from a PR standpoint. As a publicist or a digital strategist, you have to think worst case scenario here and most memes are used in a joking matter, generally make fun of someone or something. It was a little shocking that they didn’t think this one through and did not consider that some people on the internet would turn this into something negative. Also, the fact that they did not immediately remove the tweet and meme generator was surprising. Once negative memes started showing up, I don’t know why they didn’t immediately remove the problem to stop it from getting bigger. This situation was very unusual and I think Cosby’s team will definitely think twice again before trying to use photos to engage Bill’s audience.
Despite the PR nightmare that this turned into, I think we can all take away something from this situation. This meme mistake speaks to the importance of always being prepared to handle a crisis and being conscious what we put on online and how it will affect our brand.
How do you think Bill Cosby’s PR team is going to handle the aftermath of this PR nightmare? Do you think Bill Cosby’s image will ever recover from this scandal?
As always, I welcome your thoughts and if you like what you read be social and share.