Over the weekend, Erica, one of the most talked about housemates on the Big Brother Nigeria show had an alcohol fuelled outburst that culminated in her disqualification from the house.
While I think of myself as a passive watcher of the reality TV show, as a fan of human and consumer behaviour, I was keen to see two things:
- How she would handle the fallout of the nights incidents the morning after
- How her team of social media handlers would control or at least contain the narrative.
The events that unfolded the morning after included an in-person apology to the housemates and a (now deleted) post on Instagram that was in equal parts apologetic and defensive.
Do I think Erica should have apologised? Yes and No.
Why am I conflicted?
On the one hand, I have a theory about Nigerian millennials; because we’re raised to be pliable and to submit to authority, when we begin to come into our own as adults, we’re intoxicated with defiance. This is why the Marlian “no manners” movement exploded and why we reserve the highest praise for people who appear to carry on without regard for “public” opinion.
Important to note at this point that personal brands are held to a much different standard than corporate brands and oftentimes, apologizing does more to put you under a microscope with people watching to see “what will he/she do next.” Wizkid, Tacha and a good 20% (and some change) of Nigerian celebrities are all handy examples of how society eventually submits to people who unapologetically keep it moving in the face of the whiplash from public scandals.
On the other hand, apologising as she did is completely on brand given her Type B personality and nothing beats a consistent brand.
Going beyond this, it’s interesting to see how PR teams are able to handle a crisis in the public eye. I believe that every crisis contains within itself the seeds of success as well as the roots of failure and with that being said, here are 5 things I would NOT do if I were on Erica’s PR team:
- Rush: I wouldn’t rush. Big picture, I’ll remember that the world is kind to beautiful people, so taking time to breathe will help ensure that you don’t take a bad situation and make it worse. Empathy is a powerful emotion and one that people often forget is never bestowed on the winner of Big Brother. When you win, people believe that you are in their debt and are constantly looking to collect from you. That’s a tough position to be in. On the other hand, even on a monetary basis, disqualification is the most bankable way outside of winning to actually make money. At last count, the fundraiser set up in her name has gathered over 16,000 USD. Nothing screams “relax” like raising most people’s annual income in under 48 hours.
- Embark on an apology tour: It’s very important to stop the bleeding. One apology is enough. People need to know that you are a human being and that you are fallible. But they also need to know that you have it under control.The media circus to follow will see many an interviewer pressing for more apologies and desiring to stretch the conversation for all its worth. What to do when this happens? First, be highly selective of the interview requests you honour. Next, decisively shut it down and let the “I have issued a statement and I have no further comment(s) on that topic” olympics begin.
- Be Available: Conventional logic will suggest that now is the time to endorse every brand, to pose for a photo with every celebrity and to host multiple instagram live’s with fans. Conventional logic is incorrect. Less is best, and scarcity not only makes everything more desirable, it also induces demand. The less access people have, the more they want and you can build up the momentum such that any and every appearance becomes a sold-out event.
- Fail to control the narrative: You know what Nigerian’s love even more than a scandal? A cute photoshoot or ten of them with a side of “know your worth” Instagram captions. Invest in photography sessions with a face beat and exotic outfits and watch outrage turn to “Awww’s” and “Flood us, we are your Lekki.”
- Overdo damage control: Let’s face it, division sells. People are infatuated with celebrity feuds and the ownership that comes with choosing sides and being on a team. It’s no surprise that every season of Big Brother, there are two major blocks of housemate fans that pitch their tents against each other. It’s everywhere. Growing up it was Genevieve “versus” Omotola. Today, it’s Wizkid “versus” Davido. There’s a reason Yemi Alade and Tiwa Savage have never been on a song together. While there might be the temptation to overcompensate and figure out how to show the world that there’s peace between all parties, milking the division for all its worth by allowing people sensationalise the feud is giving the people what they want and is ultimately the more profitable strategy.
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