Never hire a comedian if you can’t take their humor

The other day I mentioned two reasons for social media voice control–you know, when someone else has the voice of the company and abuses it or misrepresents.  One case was a staffer of an agency that worked for Chrysler who made a derogatory comment about Detroit. First of all, Chrysler is large enough to have in-house staff do that project. It cannot possibly be difficult to find one-five staffers who love the company and could be trained enough on the company’s brand to Tweet for it. How cool would it be to get tweets from R&D, from the design team, from engineers, from the internal think tank? So shame on Chrysler for turfing out its message. The staffer was fired by the agency and Chrysler fired its agency. All appropriate.

The second case was Aflac firing comedian Gilbert Gottfried for inappropriate jokes about Japan. Apparently 75% of their business market is in Japan. Now Gottfried isn’t on staff, nor does he represent the company. He is merely the voice of the mascot duck. But Aflac fired Gottfried as the duck’s voice and is getting a replacement voice. Aflac over stretched their response. If they wanted to indicate they think Gottfried’s jokes on his personal twitter account are tasteless, fine. But he’s a comedian. That’s what comedians do–they channel our nervous energy, our fears, our rudeness and make social commentary. Aflac should have never hired a comedian as their mascot’s voice. But here’s the thing: Gottfried was not representing the company in any way. And how many people knew he was the voice of the duck? I doubt very many. Fans maybe, so they’re hardly offended. Aflac paid for his service; they don’t get to control his image or punish him for it.

Small businesses may not get to this level of image control or issues with social media. But watching the response unfold can provide a chapter in crisis communication prevention.

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