It can be quite difficult to source examples of effective crisis strategies in creative enterprise. Companies may be small, they may not have product that if defective could bring harm to the masses, inciting a recall, or even if a crisis occurred, would necessarily lead to financial ruin or impact enough jobs as to be considered newsworthy. Essentially, being portrayed negatively in the media is what is considered a ‘crisis’ rather than whatever was at fault in the first instance. This is undoubtedly due to the unpredictability of what character-revealing hue the media may taint their brush with when presented the opportunity to paint a picture of whatever business has managed the misfortune of unintentionally wandering into the spotlight. Even though being in the spotlight can be very good for business, a crisis is when a business finds itself in there for the wrong reasons.
The biggest business there is in creative enterprise is of course actors. Their sheer bankability provides millions of dollars and hundreds of jobs for each movie they secure, so much can be at stake if their reputation goes down and at the wrong time. When analysing public image and crisis management strategies, the business of being one person follows the same principles of those strategies being employed by companies and corporations because they are in themselves a brand. If a celebrity does not behave accordingly when a crisis occurs, especially when it is usually their behaviour that has caused the crisis, devastating consequences can ensue. They employ publicists just as companies procure PR personnel - for the management of crises and to nudge their image in the right direction, or at times, drag it kicking and screaming. Many act on their own volition, which can be very precarious if they were a big company. But celebrities are probably the easiest for the public to forgive, as after all it is their job to entertain and a public discretion is hardly akin to a situation such as a large toy manufacturer producing their latest line of product which has just caused several child fatalities due to toxic parts. The methods they employ during scandals can be measured by textbook crisis management procedures on a smaller scale humanly while generally on a much larger scale publically.
Many celebrities have endured many different crises over time, some more successful than others. These successes and failures can be compared to measure their strategic effectiveness in relation to how any business deals with crises.
PR Influences (2002) defines a crisis as:
...an actual event or occurrence, usually of short timeframe, which puts a single organisation, and its methods of operation, under intense public and media scrutiny and which can, if not handled properly, materially impact on the business. In simplistic terms, it is often the case that an issue is an implied or potential event which can be proactively managed, while a crisis is an actual event or occurrence which requires a reactive response.
The Institute for Crisis Management defines a business crisis as a problem that:
1) disrupts the way an organization conducts business, and
2) attracts significant new media coverage and/or public scrutiny’ (Reference for Business, 2009).
Celebrities are easy targets for significant news coverage as they are already always in the spotlight, their personal lives containing a ready supply of human interest, which many PR authorities believe to be a major contributing factor as to whether a story is “newsworthy” or not. ‘One role of the media is to entertain. Scandal and controversy are virtually guaranteed column inches’ (ERSC Economic & Social Research Council, n.a. p.6).
The Economic and Social Research Council (n.a.) delivers some points on what to do when dealing with a bad news story:
- Act quickly - a speedy response and a good statement will help limit the damage and sometimes kill off an inaccurate story altogether.
- Never say 'no comment' - if there isn't enough factual information to give out, or if there are reasons to keep the information confidential, give a holding statement which puts the story in context.
- Be honest and open. Do not try to deceive the media - they usually find out and it will make the story twice as hard to deal with.
- If there has been a genuine mistake, apologise swiftly and sincerely - and explain what you are doing to put it right.
- Make sure the appropriate spokespeople are available for interview and are fully briefed.