I just received a New York Times e-mail notice that Charlie Sheen was fired from CBS’s sitcom “Two and a Half Men.” Sheen was the lead character and highest paid television star. He recently made big news for all the wrong reasons. His troubles with the law, bizarre behavior, and recent antics on television and radio was finally too much for CBS. They canned the troubled star today, probably putting the final nails in the coffin for the show and the rest of the cast. This situation isn’t too unlike Tiger Woods’s travails in November of 2009. His auto accident which led to his dirty laundry of exploits resulted in many of his sponsors dumping him. You can throw in Pittsburgh Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger, who was suspended for 4 games this year for embarrassing his team and the NFL after accusations (of which he was never formally found guilty of) were levied against him by a woman he met in a bar (sound familiar?).
Reputation is one of my 5 key areas of impact when it comes to crisis management. Make no mistake about it…this was a crisis for CBS. Media outlets are always vulnerable to reputation hits from their “stars.” Corporations who sponsor celebrity athletes, move stars, and the like are in the same boat. How they handle these crises will ultimately determine how they are preceived, and how badly the crisis will hurt.
CBS wasted very little time. Sheen spent last week making a fool of himself to any media outlet that would give him time. CBS at some point has made a decision on how it wants to be perceived and held the line with its biggest (by dollar amount at least) star. Their crisis management decision has huge implications – loss of revenue, legal action from cast members or employees, loss of fans, etc. However, in their organization, they set a standard of appropriate behavior for their employees.
These types of decisions can’t be made on the fly. Your organization must determine it’s own vulnerabilities and decide to make commitments to action in advance, not in real time. You may not ever have the same exposure of a renegade television star. However, you may have employees who can get into their own behavior problems. How do you deal with substance abuse, driving while intoxicated, criminal charges, public humiliation, libel, slander, or other issues? Are you willing to fire your best employee for conduct detrimental to your organization? Do you have a policy stating that?
Recently, Washington State University benched its star basketball player, Klay Thompson just before a huge game against UCLA for possession of marijuana. I’m not saying it was the right or wrong move; too much or too little. What I am saying is that they have a policy that includes everyone and they are prepared to deal with behavior crises on their team.
My question for you is this – are you?
© 2011 Dan Weedin. All Rights Reserved