Trevor Noah’s Twitter Crisis Management Lessons

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    Daily Show’s New Host Learns Crisis Management Lessons

    Comedian Trevor Noah has some massive shoes to fill as Jon Stewart’s replacement on The Daily Show. Noah was bound to face criticism purely because Stewart was so beloved, but thanks to the Internet and social media in particular he’s being taken to task for his past as well.

    Immediately after Comedy Central’s announcement of Noah as the new host people began poring through his online presence. E-detectives pulled up a number of old posts deemed by some as sexist or anti-Semitic and quickly began circulating them around the web, where they combined with debate on his merits as a host to create a PR problem.

    Both Noah and Comedy Central replied independently with what we thought were mediocre messages that didn’t directly address the bigoted nature of the slurs.

    “Like many comedians, Trevor Noah pushes boundaries; he is provocative and spares no one, himself included,” said the network in emailed statements. “To judge him or his comedy based on a handful of jokes is unfair. Trevor is a talented comedian with a bright future at Comedy Central.”

    We’re not here to debate the appropriateness of the jokes (if you’re interested a quick Google will return quite a few results for places you can do that), but there is a crisis management lesson to be learned. Whether you’re starting a new job search, heading to a new employer, or maybe just haven’t taken a look back on your posts from the past couple of years, it’s critical to remember that your posts provide a chronicle of your past. And, despite how unfair you may feel it is, you WILL be judged on that past.

    Whether you stand behind what you said and leave it posted or clear things out and start with a new slate is up to you, but you absolutely must be aware of the issues that may arise. It’s always important to remember who your audience is as well – in Noah’s case Comedy Central is standing behind him and dismissing the posts as a couple of jokes that missed the park, but if you work in, say, social services or investment banking you’ll have far less leeway.

    Good crisis management means being aware of potential outcomes, and when we’re talking social media the world will be the jury that decides your fate. Trevor Noah’s Twitter crisis highlights the importance of responsible social media use and effective crisis management lessons gained for individuals

    For more resources, see the Free Management Library topic: Crisis Management

    [Jonathan Bernstein is president of Bernstein Crisis Management, Inc., an international crisis management consultancy, and author of Manager’s Guide to Crisis Management and Keeping the Wolves at Bay – Media Training. Erik Bernstein is vice president for the firm, and also editor of its newsletter, Crisis Manager]

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