Kathy, just try to stop talking.
Kathy Griffin has made her career on being loud, obnoxious and over the top. And it is these traits that are now preventing her from recuperating the public’s perception of her. Griffin needs to distance herself from this recent scandal and from her persona, just for a little bit.
As a PR professional who specializes in crisis management, here’s some advice from me to Griffin: Shut your mouth. I am not going to debate the comic validity of her holding aloft a model of Trump’s head covered in blood for a photo shoot. Regardless of whether or not it was funny, from a PR standpoint, Griffin made a smart move when she removed the image from her social media accounts and publicly apologized. And that is where she should have stopped.
PR 101 during a crisis is about acknowledging your errors, taking responsibility for them and then apologizing. And that’s where you hit the brake. Instead, after a few days of public ridicule, extreme criticism and even some death threats, Griffin and her lawyer, Lisa Bloom, held an impromptu press conference that was as scattered as it was stupid.
Like most of her career, Griffin’s press conference was full of self-aggrandizement, exaggeration and accusation. She pulled a complete 180 from her apology just a few days prior, despite claiming during the press conference that she was standing by it. She accused Trump and his family of vindictively ruining her and her career; then she played the gender card, saying that she was only being treated this way because she is a woman. Lastly, she painted herself as a patriot trying to protect the rights of Americans to criticize the president. Criticism is one thing, but, no matter one’s political disagreements with the president, that distinguished office deserves a modicum of respect; posing in a photo-op with a model decapitated bloody head of the president is not only disrespectful, it is despicable.
Realistically, Griffin will not be losing any of her hardcore fan base from this stunt. Most of her fans are anti-Trump and are accustomed to her loud version of comedy. But her refusal to let this subject drop may have repercussions in the future, preventing her from garnering new fans.
While she said that she stands by her apology, she is refusing to take responsibility, which usually goes part and parcel. Nevertheless, others are holding her accountable. She was fired from her spokesperson role with Squatty Potty, several venues refused to host her citing security concerns and CNN announced that Griffin will not co-host their New Year’s Eve program, which she has been doing with Anderson Cooper for a decade. Even Cooper – wisely, from a PR perspective – rushed to put distance between them. And Cooper is certainly no fan of Trump’s; just a few weeks ago, he made internet waves when a video of him rolling his eyes at Kellyanne Conway went viral.
The photo was bad enough, but it was the press conference that was the true nail in the coffin for any future growth as a public persona for Griffin. There was no strategy behind the press conference beyond playing the victim card. And nobody is weeping for her.
During the press conference, she vowed to continue criticizing and mocking Trump. Are you still a victim when you make a mistake, acknowledge it, refuse to take accountability for it and then reinforce it? If anything, she is strengthening Trump’s position right now. For once, Trump is actually the wronged party and he is using that sympathy card.
Additionally, had Griffin released her initial apology and then stayed quiet, the hubbub would have died down. Within a week or two, this event would have started being forgotten and she may have even been able to reacquire some of the things she had lost. Once no one is talking about it anymore, there ceases to be backlash for those supporting her. Instead, she has prolonged the conversation, making it more difficult for CNN or Squatty Potty to take her back and she has helped Trump. With everyone discussing Trump’s feud with Griffin, there’s been less coverage of his policies and the Russia scandal engulfing his Whitehouse.
If Griffin really wants to heal her reputation, she needs to shut up and go away. She needs to let the focus slide off of her and leave the news-cycle; take a hiatus. Her proclamations that Trump is ruining her are nothing but bombastic exaggerations that distract from real issues. Not all attention is good attention, Kathy.
Josh Nass is a NYC based PR executive who specializes in crisis communications and reputation management.