The Rise & Fall of Madonna


Perhaps one of the most re-wound moments of television this year, Madge certainly livened up The Brit’s this week with an epic wardrobe malfunction.

Yes THAT moment has been well documented, but perhaps less so is the reaction by both the lady herself, her PR team and the resulting public perceptions of the self-proclaimed Queen of Pop.

Madonna is not the first celeb to take a tumble, nor will she be the last. However, when celebs encounter disasters like this, the public either rally to their side or poke fun at the ‘fallen star’. So what makes us like or loathe a celebrity after a catastrophe? Two words – Crisis. Management.

Jennifer Lawrence’s fall at the Oscars made her the BFF that everyone wanted but when Kanye West took a tumble on stage in Norway, ‘what goes around comes around’ was the thought of the day. Yes a lot of this is to do with existing perceptions, but immediate reaction plays a huge part.

Crisis communication tests even the most experienced of PRs to the limit. The response to brands’ faux pas is instant and often forceful on social media, so PRs have to be ready to step in with messages to help rather than harm an already potentially damaged reputation.

The bad news is there’s no handbook when it comes to a crisis. The good news? When PR teams nail it, they nail it. Good crisis comms not only calm a situation but engender brand trust and attract new customers. Getting it right takes a quick thinking team that can weigh up a situation and act appropriately to stop a shower becoming a storm.

Perfect example – Greggs. When a Google algorithm went haywire last year, a fake Greggs bakery page complete with offensive logo topped search pages, sparking mass outrage. #FixGreggs quickly went viral and the Greggs social team handled it perfectly with humorous jibes at Google which resulted in a hilarious exchange between the two companies. Perfect timing, just enough humour, and big brand banter ensured this potential crisis was turned into a positive for both Greggs and Google.

Hats (or hair nets) off to the Greggs’ team. Job well done

But it’s oh so easy to get it wrong. Importantly, it’s not always proactive messages that can fuel the fire of a brand disaster. Forgetting to apply current circumstances to planned communications can be just as bad. Case in point? Tesco. Everyone remembers the horsemeat scandal…Well slap bang into the middle of the backlash, Tesco publishes a tweet saying “It’s sleepy time, we’re off to hit the hay!” Too soon Tesco, too soon.

Insisting that this tweet was scheduled days in advance of the scandal breaking, this oversight caused more trouble for the already suffering supermarket, which was then forced to issue a separate apology, doubling the work for the PR team and intensifying the conversation.

They say for every action, there’s an equal and opposite reaction. Well ‘they’ don’t tend to be wrong. It’s the job of PRs to assess the situation and make sure that reaction is adequate. That’s the real skill.

Madonna has tried to deflect attention towards her outfit, but she will NEVER be allowed to forget that moment. Public response is currently split between people using this as proof of her professionalism and those creating 300 memes and generally having a good snigger at the singer.

She’s formally addressed that moment on The Jonathan Ross Show saying she ‘created a horror show’. The show airs on 14th March, at which point we’ll see how she’s handled the whole affair and what the public think about it…

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