Answer: I reached out to dozens of crisis PR experts today—people who have handled everything from food recalls to child sex-abuse scandals. Their only point of disagreement: Whether Chris Brown’s career is finished, over or merely done.
This is no small fall for a guy who, just last year, was named by Forbes magazine as a “celebrity dealmaker to watch.” His biggest sin since the alleged crime? Staying silent.
Of course, what actually happened remains to be sorted out in full view of Lady Justice. But PR people universally agree that Brown should have launched his I’m-an-ass apology tour by now, or at least some sort of self-mutilating statement.
Here’s the long-shot strategy he should be following…
Police investigation notwithstanding, crisis PR pro Dave Cieslak tells me he that somebody in Brown’s position should “admit his unspeakable mistake and genuinely beg forgiveness from Rihanna and his fans, all with tears streaming from his eyes.”
And yet there is a very tiny chance that Brown could crawl and scrape his way back into our collective good graces.
How? Focusing on his fans in the African-American community is a good start, image management consultant Goldie Taylor says. “We have a forgiving heart in the community,” Taylor says. “It’s happened time and time again. We saw it with Al Sharpton and Tawana Brawley, and look at Michael Vick. He isn’t done yet.”
(Indeed, Vick gets out of prison in July, and his lawyers are reportedly seeking to get him reinstated into the NFL.)
That focus may take the form of a sympathetic interview with Cousin Jeff on BET or giving us a very public come-to-Jesus moment by joining an African-American church.
He also needs to curb any news leaks coming out of his camp, as well as put out his own strong message, Taylor says:
“That his love for Rihanna is unfaltering, that he has undying love and respect for black women everywhere, that he has sisters and watched his mother struggle as a single mom, and that he can’t comment on anything directly but that he has great faith in the American justice system.
“But if they keep up with this radio silence,” Taylor says, “he’s a dead brand walking.”
Of course, Brown’s own anti-domestic-violence foundation must follow.
Even after all that, don’t look for a Chris Brown live tour anytime soon.
“If his people are smart,” says Peter Shankman, founder of the PR firm Geek Factory, “they’ll keep him under wraps for at least six months.”