Last weekend, we learned we confirmed what two things we’ve known for a while — No. 1.: Tracy Morgan is nuts and probably should not speak in public ever again — unless he has Tina Fey writing the words coming out of his mouth. No. 2: If you piss someone off, you can count on it on ending up on Facebook.
In case you missed it, here’s what went down in Nashville with Tracy Morgan. The loose cannon, known for his role on 30 Rock, ticked off comedy fans last weekend during a standup gig when he went off on a decidedly unfunny homophobic rant. The contents of the tirade have been much chronicled and reprinted, so we won’t give his words more power than they deserve by republishing them here. But Kevin Rogers, an audience member that night who also happens to be a gay man and a self- described fan of Morgan’s, took to his Facebook page to describe what happened at the show.
Entitled “Why I No Longer Like Tracy Morgan — A Must-read,” the Facebook note posted on June 3rd soon became worldwide news. Quoted and excerpted, Rogers’ thoughts were featured everywhere from CNN to The Huffington Post to The View and beyond. Rogers broke news that we might not otherwise have ever heard about. Moreover, rumors of Morgan’s anti-gay ramblings have circulated for years; but thanks to a high-paying network sitcom gig have largely remained hidden.
But now Facebook confirmed the rumors in a matter of moments. Rogers was elevated from average audience member to reviewer and whistleblower with one well-placed post. The power of this Facebook message and the media interest behind it are testament to social media PR. Thanks to Rogers’ post, every comedian on the planet weighed in on Morgan — and Morgan issued an apology while entering an obligatory GLAAD servitude.
Clearly, marketers and online branders can learn a lot from this hot mess. Each time our brand makes a mistake, we run the risk of a social media retaliation. Morgan flubbed big-time by waiting for the churned out PR firm apology instead of going to social media himself. He made the choice to say what he did on stage, and then made more choices to deal with it in the manner he did. And he’s paid for those choices. Country singer Blake Shelton had a similar flub a few months ago but dodged the whole mess by choosing to respond promptly via Twitter.
The point is everybody screws up and says stupid stuff… but everybody also now has the instant resources to make things right. We, too, as marketers have the power that Rogers used in his Facebook note. We have the channels and means to send out clever messages, good campaigns and ideas that unite our audiences. We just have to make the choice to do it.