Recent allegations set forth against Bill Cosby have caused major problems, both in the social realm and within corporate communications. Bill Cosby has been accused of rape on a number of occasions, with numerous women coming forward. They are coming forth, however, years after the statutory laws for charging Cosby have expired. While Cosby will not be prosecuted, his credibility and reputation within society will be put on trial. In addition to his own personal brand image, his endorsers are quickly disassociating from him in order to prevent backlash and negative association.
Companies often use spokespersons as role models who extend or embody their principles. By association with Cosby, many of these Networks would be endorsing rapists, thus creating backlash amongst the community. For example, Netflix did not air a Cosby special after the news of rape reports surfaced. In addition, NBC cancelled an upcoming show in development with Cosby in order to prevent negative association. While Cosby is not technically guilty in the court of law, a group of his peers and brave women who have come forward have spoken enough to change the minds of America. This, as a result, has further crystallized Cosby’s newfound reputation as a rapist.
This situation is reminiscent of that with Paula Dean, the famous Food Network star who faced racist allegations. Her sponsors immediately dropped her and dissociated. While the entire incident left Dean without any credibility, it also tarnished the brands’ representations she was associated with.
In this day and age, companies and corporations should be selective in choosing whom to hire or use as spokespersons. They must also prepare a conflict resolution strategy should any crises such as the aforementioned arise. This will ensure corporations can maintain their positive reputations and enforce positive associations for the companies and their stakeholders. What does the Cosby situation mean for his career? Will this be forgotten? Or will networks and companies continue to disassociate?