Reputation Management Lessons From Roseanne

There are very few things more important to a company than reputation management and Roseanne Barr has inadvertently helped rewrite the handbook. I was in my early adulthood when Roseanne’s ground-breaking television show was in its prime. In its original nine year run, “Roseanne” led the charge in advocating homosexuality. Not only was “Roseanne” the first show to feature prominent homosexual characters, but she backed it up by stating that her two real-life siblings are gay. As ground-breaking and inclusive as the show was, I never cared for it. Back then I was still offended by her performance of our nation’s anthem at a San Diego Padres baseball game. No kidding. I was on a missionary trip to Southeast Asia in 1990 and it was headline news there. Imagine trying to explain an American woman grabbing her crotch at a ballgame to people who didn’t understand our culture! What kind of moron would purposely disrespect the national anthem of a country as free as this? Exactly! I agree! It should go without saying that I was embarrassed by Roseanne Barr then, as I am now.

Last year, ABC decided to renew “Roseanne” even though its star had tendencies to offend, but also break ground in very positive ways. In the recently-aired tenth season opener, the show illustrated that by including an African-American girl and a gender-fluid boy among her beloved grandchildren. The show was not only well-balanced because Roseanne loved these kids unconditionally, but she was also a very likable conservative. In addition, “Roseanne” also wrote a story line of sisters (portrayed by Barr and Laurie Metcalf) that loved one another but supported Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, respectively. The show sat well on all fronts. It was at the top of the television ratings and pleased both liberals and conservatives alike. This is a secret formula sought but rarely achieved in show business.

So What Happened?

She opened her big mouth. That’s what happened! In case you were under a rock this week, I will inform you that the show’s star, Roseanne Barr, compared a liberal woman (who happens to be African-American) to an ape. In anyone’s eyes, this is reprehensible. There are also a number of entertainers that have said things about President Trump and his family that are reprehensible as well and, in my opinion, deserve the same retribution. I’m not saying that all entertainers are idiots, but it is not a bad rule of thumb if you are in the business of reputation management.

Believe it or not, in my experience working with entertainers’ representatives for more than two decades, every time they open their mouths there is some sort of mess to clean up. No matter if it is political, personal, or just simply reputational. One thing is for sure. If you are receiving this email, you know my pain and I feel yours as well. In every industry, the folks labeled as “talent” do not concern themselves with many things outside of the process of creation. And that’s not a bad thing. That’s what they do. They create. We are left to clean up any mess that comes along. Even after we clean up, there is plenty of profit to go around.

Prevention Methods

In our experience, it is important to impress upon all representatives and employees that, whatever happens, if the project goes down we all go down. For example, Roseanne not only hurt herself with her comment, but she caused more than one hundred working class people to lose their jobs. How wrong is that? Let’s all remember that, no matter what we say, the people we work with are affected. The golden “do unto others” rule always applies.