Thursday, July 15th, 2010
Mel’s Meltdowns: Lessons Learned
Another day, another meltdown caught on tape for Mel Gibson. Typically, I blog about athletes who get into trouble and executives who score big, or have a huge miss, but rarely do I dip into Hollywood. Yesterday, someone who follows me on Twitter asked, “If I were coaching Mel through this, how would I turn the media around for him?” At first I was at a loss for words, because on the outset the picture seems just so bad, there’s nothing to do.
Now that I’ve had a chance to sleep on it, I have a few thoughts. Some are REALLY obvious, others may surprise you.
Let’s begin with the “no brainer” advice. Take important lessons learned from Nancy Reagan, your mother, and Monica Lewinsky (admit it, there’s a trio you don’t see everyday):
- Just say no. Don’t say anything that could come back to bite you later. Don’t lead with anger. Give yourself a cooling off period before you address any volatile situation.
- If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all. ‘Nuff Said.
- Be careful of what you say. Someone might be recording you on the other side. Did we not learn anything from the 20 hours of recorded conversations between Monica Lewinsky and Linda Tripp. I bet Monica still doesn’t use names or specifics in phone calls to this day!
Next, now that the proverbial cat is out of the bag, what should Gibson be doing? Maintaining silence or getting his version of the story out?
Silence is golden for now. Given the fact that it’s clear from the tapes the actor did not know he was being recorded, he may not know how many are out there, or how bad the worst one is. So from a PR standpoint, while viewers and listeners may be hanging on for some response, and thirsting for some explanation, he needs to hold tight until he knows everything he’s up against. No sense in coming out early with bold denials or statements, only to get hit with something else that will contradict or weaken what he’s said. Wait until it appears all negative news is out, and figure out if criminal charges are pending, then craft the message and release strategy.
Needless to say, he has a very tough road ahead of him to clean up the mess that’s out there. Between disparaging race, religion and gender comments, from a career standpoint, I’m not sure he’s left any of Hollywood un-offended? Someone of some offended group will be in charge of directing, writing, producing or casting whatever film Gibson has his eye on next.
As an interesting comparison, you may notice that Elin Woods (Tiger’s soon-to-be mega-millionaire ex) followed the same strategy of withholding a statement until all the dirt was out. And if reports of the would-be divorce settlement are true, she played the hand correctly. Why come out and make a move when only one or two women have surfaced? Why not wait until nearly 20 named, and hundreds of unnamed women are on record so she can make the strongest case possible.
True these are different events, and different causes, but the approach is exactly the same. Gibson from both a legal and professional standpoint will do well to wait until everything is out in the open before he starts mounting a defense.
If you find yourself in a PR nightmare because you didn’t follow the obvious big three prevention steps listed above, ask yourself the following:
- Do you know the whole story, and everything involved?
- If so, does it serve you to release all of the information yourself (a la Alex Rodriguez)?
- If not, is there more danger in holding silent, or coming out too quickly with your version of an incomplete picture?
- Once everything is out there, what’s the total potential damage?
- What’s the worst case scenario?
- What’s the immediate action, statement, apology, restitution you can begin or make to address the worst case scenario? Even if the worst case didn’t come out, do more than expected to clean up whatever mess you’ve created. Go above and beyond what anyone thinks you will do. The only thing Americans love more than watching a hero fall, is the redemption and restoration to heroic status of that same individual. Again, a la Alex Rodriguez.
And of course, you can always call me to help you walk through these questions. That’s what I’m here for!
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