I have been motivated to write this article due to the need to highlight a critical issue that has been missing in all media discussions; the issue of “PERSON BRANDS” and its relevance in specific industries. This article will draw a parallel between Nana Aba Anamoah’s case and another case involving Fareed Zakaria. Fareed Zakaria is a journalist at Time and CNN holds and a PhD from Havard and a Bachelor’s from Yale.
In August 2012, he was suspended for a week while Time and CNN investigated an allegation of plagiarism involving an August 20 column on gun control with similarities to a New Yorker article by Jill Lepore. Zakaria apologized and called it a mistake. After a review of his research notes and years of his work, he was re-instated by Time and CNN. Time described the incident as “isolated” and “unintentional”; and CNN “… found nothing that merited continuing the suspension….” Note that Zakaria’s allegation related directly to his job for these media houses that have built their global brands on solid credibility. Note some the key words: “ISOLATED”, “UNINTENTIONAL” To effectively address this issue we must understand that brands are context and industry-specific and that the role of “person” brands is more pronounced in certain industrieFor example, in certain industries like media, fashion and entertainment the issue of person brands are much more pronounced or powerful than say in the FMCG industry.
For example someone might purchase Unilever’s product because they like the product but someone might tune into a particular media network just because the want to listen to a particular presenter or they have developed a certain level of affinity with the presenter. Therefore in the media industry, there is a more pronounced individual brand which drives brand affection and affinity for both the corporate brand and the individual brand. From a brand’s perspective, TV3’s approach is inappropriate in the sense that they smashed Nana Aba’s brand image and credibility to smithereens by ousting her out as dishonest with the use of very strong words like “online information THEFT” and then left her out to dry to become the subject of public ridicule. They also did not mention her many years of distinguished professional service to the station in the statement. Unless TV3 intends to dismiss her, that approach was not well thought through. What happens if TV3 brings her back to represent them onscreen or even off screen? How do they cure the damage to her personal brand and reputation and its attendant effect on the corporate brand?
TV3 wanted to position itself as a serious and credible organization that does not countenance any acts of unprofessionalism but did they necessarily have to damage Nana Aba’s brand in order to achieve that? Did they necessarily have to use those operative words in order to achieve that? From a PR perspective, TV3 have also scored an own goal. In PR, timing and language are critical factors. You can practically say the same thing but use words more effectively to achieve a better effect. If TV3 wanted to react they should have released the statement much earlier to say that they are investigating a case of misrepresentation involving Nana Aba and they will issue a statement after the investigation is complete and that the station will not countenance and activity that can have an adverse effect on the corporate brand. They didn’t do that. However, they issued a statement at a time when the issue was almost dead and succeeded in resurrecting the issue full force. What’s worse is that they used words to practically demolish a “person brand” that’s intrinsically linked to the corporate brand. Drawing a parallel from the Fareed Zakaria case, TIME magazine used the key words, UNINTENTIONAL, ISOLATED.
They did that because they recognized the many years of distinguished professional service and described the incident as ISOLATED. They also respected Fareed’s credibility and described his action as UNINTENTIONAL. Assuming without admitting that it wasn’t a prank, it was still in the interest of TV3 to protect Nana Aba’s brand but still condemn any such acts that have the possibility of dragging the corporate brand into disrepute. Such a phrase would have been appropriate; “….In as much as internal investigations reveal that Nana Aba Anamoah’s action was an innocent prank on her many twitter followers, she exercised inappropriate professional indiscretion which is at variance with the station’s highest professional standards and that brand ambassadors should not be seen to be engaging in acts that can bring their personal integrity and that of Tv3 into disrepute…. TV3 wishes to assure the public that it will continue to uphold the highest ethical and professional standards in line with it corporate positioning of being First in News, Best in Entertainment.” TV3 could also have mentioned that over the years, Nana Aba Anamoah has distinguished herself as a reliable professional and this incident is isolated …..”
There’s nothing wrong with sanctioning her if they feel the TV3 brand has suffered grave injury but it should have been done internally and on the quiet. From both a Public Relations and a Brand’s perspective, TV3’s approach is totally inappropriate and I can only believe that probably other extraneous factors that the public is not privy to might be the underlying cause of TV3’s response.