How to respond when past actions become public

With social media and a culture of outrage, past missteps can come back to bite you. Here’s how a PR team should respond when old mistakes come to light.

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With today’s access to information and the ease of which people can share that information, a lot of skeletons are coming out of the closet.

This is especially true for celebrities. Where once the supermarket tabloids primarily ran headlines about “embarrassing” or “scandalous” celebrity stories, the market for that kind of “news” has grown exponentially. Even traditional nightly news programs run lead stories about “allegations,” “mistakes,” “misdeeds,” “misstatements” and all the other common euphemisms for a past indiscretion.

Making it worse, sometimes the terminology used does not make a clear differentiation between stupid decisions and prosecutable crimes. One recent example is the essentially self-inflicted firestorm surrounding actor Liam Neeson.

In what many have said was a profoundly unnecessary and ill-advised admission, Neeson shared a personal story of rage, regret and dangerous ideas, all with an obvious racial component. According to Neeson, years ago, a friend was raped by black person. When that friend shared her pain and trauma with Neeson, he said he felt rage, and that this rage caused him to, temporarily, consider committing violence against black men as an act of revenge.

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