top of page

Talent Crisis Management

Media groups spend a lot of money promoting and marketing talent in order to have them be reflective of their radio station brand. Talent are also their own brands. The most successful talent put in hours and hours of hard work beyond the level of investment made in them by a broadcaster. The relationship is at its best when the broadcaster and the talent both benefit from the mutual investment of time and money to support the stations and personalities brand.

Fred Jacobs of Jacobs Media, in one of his daily blogs this past week, wrote an article regarding “When Talent Are Misunderstood.” An excellent column that touched on the lightening rod moments in the careers of Sinead O’Connor and Pee-wee Herman. He mentions other talent who had missteps in their careers including Don Imus, who was at Cumulus when I was there and that I idolized as a young morning personality in Wheeling, WVa. I listened to the I-Man when he was on-air at WGAR in Cleveland. I’d change the EAS receiver to that stations frequency to hear him as I did my show.

Morning Show Bootcamp is this Wednesday-Friday in Dallas. Talent who perform in all dayparts will be there. Conversation is sure to touch on the recent misstep by a known and beloved Washington, DC talent. You’d be hard pressed to find a talent that hasn’t had a slip-up at some point in their career. If we were keeping scores on regrets, it would almost certainly be a tie among many.

Crisis can find both the talent and the brand in a matter of moments when talent behave badly or when a brand makes a strategic error that alienates an audience. There are times when the incident is initially thought to be innocent until the details are discovered through a deeper investigation. Times when something out of context creates a firestorm. The devices we carry make us all Citizen Journalists and there is never a time when you’re “off.” If you’re a celebrity, you’re always “on.”

There have been times in my career when I’ve been hired as a part of crisis control team. Several times to work with artists and their management. Several times by radio companies to advise them on how to handle an unfortunate situation. Not everything is an HR issue. Those are the easy problems to solve as there are usually pretty clear rules detailed by clauses in agreements that address those issues. The need for crisis control comes when something happens that impacts revenue or damages an image that may have a larger and long-lasting negative impact.

When things go wrong, shutdown all comments and temporarily, hit “pause.” Allow for time to examine the facts and weigh your options. Saying nothing publicly for a half a day, or even a full-day, that is more than “we’re investigating the situation” allows for a thoughtful response. I’ve learned the hard way that reacting quickly to one situation can create a greater issue than the original.

Learn from history. How have others successfully handled unfortunate situations? What did they do well? What wasn’t done well? How did the consumer or listener react? When do you do nothing and when do you do something? If you don’t control the narrative, the narrative will control you. However, there should be a lot of action behind-the-scenes before you react publicly.

The first and most important approach is to tell the truth. History has shown us that more individuals have had long-term problems in the aftermath of a crisis because of the coverup and not because of the actual incident. President Bill Clinton comes to mind. He wasn’t impeached because he stepped outside of the bounds of his marriage. It was because he lied under oath. If you studied the Watergate Coverup in school, you know that what tarnished Richard Nixon’s presidency was the coverup and the lies.

Sometimes it’s smart to simply apologize and disappear for a while. John Lennon said that The Beatles were “More popular than Jesus" and that quote, taken out of context, could have ended their ride in Christian countries. It was part of a remark made in a March 1966 interview, in which he argued that the public were more infatuated with The Beatles than with Jesus, and that the Christian faith was declining to the extent that it might be outlasted by rock music. The band finished their last show in August 1966 and retreated to the United Kingdom. The Beatles never toured again.

Lead singer of The Dixie Chicks (now known as The Chicks), Natalie Maines, criticized then President George W. Bush from a stage in London. She said that she and the band were embarrassed to be from the same state as the President and that they did not support the war in Iraq. History has shown that they had a right to criticize the President and the war. The mistake they made was that the comment seemed unsupportive of the US Military instead of being against the war. The message could have been worded differently. Tough to process mentally when you’re ad-libbing.

This one didn’t end as well as the Beatles situation, although The Chicks continue to perform and remain successful musicians and performers. Countless country radio stations boycotted their music. A move that I’ve never understood. Why would anyone punish their listeners by not playing the hits? If the audience is upset, they’ll stop buying their music. Shouldn’t consumption drive your decision as to whether you play a bands’ music or not?

When the banning of music by The Dixie Chicks began, I was quoted in the radio trades as saying “We’ll take them at AC.” They had their cover of Landslide on the radio then. That comment garnered me a chance to work with their management and label as a part of pulling them from the mire. Unfortunately, the band never returned to the heights that they had previous to the incident, largely because Maines dug in her heels and fueled the fire of discord by continuing to voice her position. Which, of course, is her right. The Chicks cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “Landslide” continues to play on AC radio today.

What you do next matters. In 1996, then Baltimore Orioles All-Star player, Roberto Alomar, got into an argument with Major League Baseball umpire John Hirschbeck over a called third strike. He spit in the umpire’s face. In a postgame interview he referenced Hirschbeck being an angry man since the death of his eight-year-old son. The two continued their feud through that season, but by October of that year they had publicly made-up and Alomar apologized to Hirschbeck.

That’s not where the story ends, though. Alomar joined with Hirschbeck in donating money to look for a cure for the disease that claimed the umpire’s infant son. The two joined forces and created a foundation and continue to focus on stamping out adrenoleukodystrophy. Alomar did the right thing, not just for himself, but for a larger less fortunate group.

In Case of Talent Crisis Management – Break Glass:

  1. Shut down all comments … until you have a chance to analyze the situation.

  2. Hit Pause; pull everyone together and understand what happened.

  3. Answer the question; what’s the negative impact of the situation? Address that.

  4. Search for the truth. Demand the truth. Be truthful.

  5. No Cover-ups. Own it. Whatever “It” is or was … own it.

  6. Does the situation warrant an apology? If you offer one, it has to be sincere.

  7. Does the talent disappear for a while? This is important if some form of rehabilitation is warranted. Don’t fake it. If help is needed, get help.

  8. Can you engage with a community service or a charity to show that, at the root, the talent is a good person and the company/station are good people? (Note; the talent has to be a good person.)

The saying “Actions Speak Louder Than Words” applies.

11 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All

How To Beat Media Job Shrinkflation

It’s difficult to pick up the trades without seeing the elimination of jobs in media. We’ve seen radio and audio companies cyclically eliminate talent, multiple times over the years, often driven by r

Unique Radio

If you’ve not yet watched the Amazon Prime documentary “Hendrie” … then you need to as soon as you can. If you’ve never heard of Phil Hendrie, he is an amazing talk talent who mastered the art of talk


bottom of page