Okay, so I log on to one of my favorite music sites, notjustok.com and what greets me is a headline that says, “Rugged Man & 9ice’s Private Phone Conversation on Toni Payne (Leaked).” The post came complete with a statement from Ruggedman and also an audio clip! “WOW! Do we have a crisis!” is what I thought.
Listening to the audio clip, there were so many layers and lessons in the leakage that I knew an article on crisis management, a subset of Public Relations, was in order. Hopefully, ALL of US and especially aspiring and established designers, stars, musicians, actors and actresses can take a few notes.
Last year, 9ice, Nigeria’s mega star, published a song titled, “Once Bitten Twice Shy.” See Video below. Since the publication of his song, and especially in 2010, there have been vicious rumors stating that one of Nigeria’s hip-hop star Ruggedman and 9ice’s wife, Nigerian fashion personality Toni Payne, were caught in a sexual situation causing 9ice to sing the above song.
The rumors have been especially directed at Ruggedman and Toni Payne. Responding in a timely manner to the rumors, Ruggedman in a press release, denied the rumors and Payne subsequently did the same on social media networks like Facebook. The denials, however, did not quench the rumors. In fact, the rumors and harassment continued and remains, by many, against both.
Ruggedman, after all of his initial efforts, gets to a point where he decides to confront 9ice, given the harassing phonecalls, Facebook messages, public ridicule of his name and integrity. Ruggedman calls 9ice and in the leak on notjustok.com, makes his case for why 9ice should clear his name. Ruggedman argued that:
1) Ruggedman, Toni Payne and 9ice are all friends, so a special relationship exists;
2) He is harassed everywhere he goes on something that never happened; and
3) He needs 9ice to clear his name
Unbeknown to 9ice, Ruggedman is recording their conversation, without 9ice’s consent. 9ice remains adamant he will remain silent and argues as follows:
a) He is a star and as a star he expects people will talk about him
b) He can’t and should not be expected to respond to any/all rumors out there, especially given his position as a star
c) The rumor is untrue so there is no reason for Ruggedman to waste his time on it.
COMPLICATED ISSUES RAISED BY THE ABOVE SAGA AND ONE MEDIA/PR “GURU’S” PERSPECTIVE
I. Is Silent Golden in this Case? Does 9ice Owe a Duty to Ruggedman and Toni Payne to “clear (their) names?”
There is the saying that most of us Nigerians grew up with, “silence is the best answer to a fool.” However, there are situations where that rule should rightfully be tossed out the window.
There are two approaches to take in resolving a crisis, i.e. situations that cause harm to a company or person’s reputation.
The 9ice Crisis Management Approach: Ignore the gossipers, public and press and ultimately it will die down or they will find something better to do. Example is how Tiger Woods and Japanese Toyota dealt with their crises. This approach usually makes sense if the crisis does not boil over. However, where you ignore the public and media and 2-3, 4 and even 5months later, the rumors or crisis persists, then you MUST engage a different plan to tame the crisis and ultimately resolve it.
The Ruggedman Crisis Management Approach: This approach says when there is a crisis, especially when your brand/name is under fire, you call a press conference, you take questions and in certain instances, you make every TV and radio show possible to explain yourself. You are proactive.
THE REAL WAHALA IN THIS CASE
The K-Leg in 9ice ‘s Current Crisis Management Approach: The rumors were/are vicious. The rumors are unique as it concerns 9ice’s wife (the mother of his child, despite their marital status (separated)). 9ice knows these rumors to be untrue. The rumors have persisted for a while now and have increasingly gotten worse (NET Magazine even published the rumors in its print publication); and finally the rumors affects the career of a colleague and most importantly, a close friend. Accordingly, 9ice, given that the rumor has brewed beyond heating point, should engage the second approach to crisis management to tame the rumors.
The K-Leg in Ruggedman’s Crisis Management Approach: I understand how vicious rumors can be and totally hear Ruggedman on how humiliating it is dealing with these rumors, especially given its nature and the fact that it involves friends. It is embarrassing and worse his family, associates, and relationship with women will or have suffered given this vicious rumors. His back, it seems, was against the wall, and he had to do something to clear his name since his press releases and refuting the calls and messages was not working.
Nevertheless, taping someone, without their consent, and leaking it to the press is just wrong. It undermines the very friendship Ruggedman claims is/was important and is intrusive and invasive. I am unsure about Nigerian law in this area but in certain states within the USA, and certainly California, that would be illegal.
What should Ruggedman have done? Engage a campaign PR if it affects him that much and go on every radio and TV station, call a press conference and “free the matter.”
TIPS ON CRISIS MANAGEMENT AND REPUTATION
Whether you are a business, a star or an individual, there will be situations where people will spread vicious rumors to really hurt you. Here are some tips that might help. At the core of it is to have a strong sense of crisis principles so you know how to deal with these situations.
I. Have a process to deal with crisis
II. Act with Speed
III. Fix the Problem
In more details
1. Act with speed and reach out to the media and public: It is hard to know what to do when you are faced with a crisis. Do you take the 9ice approach and ignore the crisis? Do you take the Ruggedman’s approach and act? If so, when and how do you act?
At the end of the day, you have to be proactive about a crisis. ACT in a prudent way. Non-action, avoiding the media, public or the situation will not make it go away. Don’t sit on it and let it grow. If it grows, you allow others and especially the media, to tell your story.
2. Apologize: If you are wrong, “say I am sorry.” You’d be surprise what happens with a simple apology.
3. Transparency: Be transparent. Show the public, family or friends how you are fixing the problem.
4. Be a Leader: Leadership is what is needed not fear. Lead.
There are no set rules or solution. One has to be flexible with a crisis and stars should engage the services of PR companies who do this. Within Nigeria’s fashion and entertainment industries, Bobby Taylor PR and ICY PR is a starting point.
~Article by Uduak Oduok