I was watching the news at lunchtime today and saw that Lance Armstrong has been stripped of his seven Tour de France wins and he has been accused of leading “the most sophisticated, professionalised and successful doping programme that sport has ever seen.” I am not a fan of cycling but I am aware of his name for the wins he has had and his comeback after having cancer.
Another celebrity, Jimmy Saville (UK English disc jockey, television presenter and media personality) is being accused of being a serial molester of underage girls throughout his career. This fact seems to have been known to those who knew him well when he was alive but never made it into the media. In both cases a reluctance to challenge the person, until now, may have been their high profile or the charity work they were involved with and any accusation might be detrimental to the charities good work.
For most of us business continuity people, the world of celebrity and their sins are a long way from the world in which we operate. Serious accusations of these sorts could have major implications for an organisation if they are in some way associated with the celebrity. Think of the impact on the brand of all the organisationsassociated with or promoted by Tiger Woods when he had his “marriage difficulties.”
With celebrities being used more and more by companies and charities to promote their products, causes and services, we as business continuity people have to be aware of the risks associated with this.
Some of the issues or the things we should be thinking about are as follows:
- If you use a major celebrity or even a local figure to promote your product, service or cause do you have plans in place or have you thought about what happens if they are accused of a crime or carry out an action which brings their reputation into dispute. Managing this is probably a task for the strategic team but I think it’s your responsibility to ensure that they have thought through what to do if this happens.
- Do you have holding statements ready to sever the connection with the celebrity if your organisation feels they no longer want to be associated with them? Those watching the UK news will have noticed that a number of charities bearing the Jimmy Saville name have rapidly or are in the process of changing their name. It’s worth raising the question with the senior team. Is there a robust severance contract in place to ‘ditch’ the celebrity if required?
- In the Jimmy Saville case he is being accused of molesting women on sites going back 30 years. The organisation may have to defend itself and find the records for the period the events took place. These records could be paramount in defending the organisation. So they could either say the person never worked there or that the event portrayed in the media never took place. Are you aware of what records your organisation keeps? How far back they go and how you access them?
- You perhaps should do a review of what records you are keeping at the moment and think though what records you might need in the future.
Comment by Sachin Khera
“Concur with you to the fullest!! In today’s world, companies approach celebrities to endorse anything and everything, which is wrong. So another imperative factor, that they should approach those celebrities, where they can see a reasonably good connection between their products and the celebrity’s profession. What I am trying to say here is that Woods should be approached for endorsing golfing / sports gear and NOT a specific brand of car just because he can afford it. Schumacher would surely be a better option. No doubt the image of the brand would still be at stake but the sudden impact of the celebrity’s tainted past would be slightly less.”