How Ten and ABC turned the Roseanne tweet fiasco into a reputational win

As both Ten and ABC in the US bar Roseanne from the airwaves following a racist tweet, Inside Out PR's Nicole Reaney explains how both broadcasters turned a potential crisis around.

It took just one tweet for an international ratings victory to be axed within hours of its display. Roseanne Barr reinvented her fame with the return of her show in March – drawing in an audience of 22 million in the US alone (blazing ahead of Will & Grace’s return at 10 million).

But in one reckless tweet that has spread throughout the globe, the ABC swiftly axed the show, with Ten replicating the decision here in Australia.

Reputations are built on values, and how those values are expressed – verbal and non-verbal cues. Action and inaction. How the public perceives positive reputation is through an organisation’s demonstration of its values and integrity, transparency and consistency. This is all tested and witnessed when a reputational incident transpires.

So far the ABC has been able to uphold its reputation with the potential to turn this incident into an image enhancement opportunity for themselves.

The swiftness of reaction time and a definite decision to axe within a short period of time has helped retain public perception and isolate the incident to Roseanne herself.

Often it’s tempting for organisations to protect potential financial loss, but choosing to stand by corporate values despite monetary impacts has factored in to reputational perceptions here.

Reportedly the show brought in US$45m to the ABC in the US, boosting to a forecasted US$60m next season. Putting short-term financial priorities aside, and evaluating longer term image credibility has worked in the network’s favour.

No doubt the issues management strategy in place defines protocol against various reputational risks. Often at the time of an issue, decision making is delayed due to internal bureaucracy or the absence of leaders with decision-making authority.

This hinders an organisation’s attempt to retain or restore its image through clouded statements that prolong a company’s stance on the matter. The ABC was definite and efficient in its delivery.

While a company may have formal protocol in place, what is often missed is the communication of brand values, corporate ethics and importantly, stance, to wider employees and stakeholders. Brands are continually at risk by the trail of people affiliated directly and indirectly.

Roseanne is no stranger to controversy, and her social trail would reveal to any organisation collaborating with her that they do so with the risk of adverse exposure.

Did the ABC share its code of conduct and values, as well as any breaching consequences to Roseanne ahead of this situation? How many organisations prepare for ‘talent’ risk to avoid the situation in the first place?

These situations are occurring more and more. Last month it was rugby player Israel Folau for his social media comments that caused public fury. Rugby Australia’s (RA) response has so far appeared to be light-weight without demonstrable action, with the hope of a fleeting ‘yesterday’s news’ situation, like so many organisations do.

And as brands engage more influencers, the sheer volume of stakeholders that can impact brands rises. As brands leap into ambassador and broader influencer programmes there is a call for diligence in anticipating, moderating and managing brand affiliations.

As for Roseanne herself, she has made a formal apology and requested her fans to stop defending her. Reportedly, she earned $21m for acting, directing and producing the nine episodes of Season 10. Upon its renewal for Season 11, it was rumoured that the forthcoming season would have included 13 episodes.

In this tempted world of sharing every thought without due consideration, perhaps this might be a lesson to many. Given the moral and financial impacts of her tweet, Roseanne will struggle to recover in the short term.

Actors, production crews and more have been affected and many have also voiced their disdain.

Nicole Reaney is director at Inside Out PR.


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