Kramer Loses It, Twice

November 25, 2006

Kramer, Kramer. Unless you are living on another planet you know that Michael Richards, the much loved actor with the explosive entrances lost it during a comedy routine. Lost it big time–with one of the most digusting racial tirades in the last fifty years. What is it with these celebrities and Hollywood types? YouTube is filled with copies of the tirade and the follow up with the hecklers on the Today Show and then Kramer’s “apology” clearly set up by his friend Jerry Seinfeld on the David Letterman show.

For crisis management purpose I want to focus on two things–the role of online video and Richard’s pathetic apology. There were only a few people in the audience when Richards went nuts. But now millions have seen it. Yes, on mainstream TV, but would they have reported this story they way they did without the unbelievable video? I doubt it very much. It would have been the hecklers’ word and some audience members against Richards and his supporters. Sketchy proof, little story.  And if it were not now possible to “broadcast” that video via YouTube, would the MSM have played it up? Again, I doubt it. Even without the play in the MSM, hundreds of thousands on now viewing on YouTube.

The point is, you screw up and it is on videotape, there is no hiding and no denying. This represents a tremendous change–and gives great impetus to the trend toward transparency. Video plus video sharing on the internet creates a glass window into lives, actions, deliberations, that were otherwise invisible.

Does this increase the risk of reputation damage? Ask Kramer.

Now to his apology. Pathetic. The only good thing one might say about it is that if you doubted his sanity during the “show” you had even more reason to doubt whether he is now operating on all cylinders after watching the apology. Apologizing was the right thing to do. No doubt, his friend Jerry arranged the botched apology. But, Kramer needed more help than getting a live feed to the Letterman show. Jerry should have helped him with the script as well.

Too bad. He screwed up big time then screwed up again. A second apology is never as effective as the first, even if it much more well thought through. We will watch those old tapes of Seinfeld now with a good deal more sadness as we have witnessed the implosion of one of the most unique and creative personalities. Sometimes, no apology and no recovery plan in the world can save a brand. It seems to me that this is one of those times.

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