Racism, Vulgarity, and Bottom Lines

My friends across the political spectrum all say they want a more civil society than we have today. There’s no easy solution, of course, though addressing the ongoing bipartisan torrent of sarcasm, racism, sexism, vulgarity, name-calling, and finger-pointing may be a good place to start.

Then there were last week’s twin public relations disasters.

First Roseanne Barr tweeted a racist “joke” to 878,000 followers. Atop her long history of inappropriate comments and behavior, she was deemed toxic and fired within hours.

Next came Samantha Bee’s vulgar comment about Ivanka, broadcast to 766,000 TV viewers and inviting a presidential demand that she be fired.

Should Barr be forgiven? Should Bee be fired? There are many layers to this issue which I’ll leave to the experts and partisans to sift through.

But it forces the question; Why was Barr fired so quickly? Simple answer; the sponsors.

My friend Joe Milana observed these are all business decisions. If the offending statement drives away too many sponsors, the show is cancelled.

Of course, sponsoring outsized personalities is always a gamble. When things go well, everyone wins. But celebrity addiction, crime, and sleaze can create controversy and risk public backlash.

Meaning sponsors, desiring ever-greater sales, must regularly decide if their customers will be too offended by the continued star affiliation.

Society’s negative tone virtually guarantees that saying almost anything will upset someone. Our atmosphere of public sharing and public shaming means everyone is carefully watching what you say and do, calling you out the moment you step “out of line”.

When asked to be a Vice-Presidential candidate, former news anchor Walter Cronkite noted; “People like me because they don’t know what I stand for. Once I take a public position on issues, I’m guaranteed to make enemies.”

Could this mean extremely visible people have a responsibility to keep societal dialogue on a higher level?

Regardless of your visibility, staying politically neutral is a smart strategy for any business. Support your causes, but never forget there are customers who will avoid doing business with you because they dislike your world view.

And rather than purposely upsetting your customer base, consider using your existing relationships to guide the dialogue towards matters that can be easily supported by those of every political stripe.

With that said, I wish you a week of profitable marketing.

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