A tainted reputation is like a bad cold. It’s contagious and spreads rapidly by association – as the Harvey Weinstein case has so poignantly demonstrated. Weinstein was married for ten years to London-born fashion designer, Georgina Chapman, in a relationship which outstripped the length of your typical Hollywood marriage.
The recent allegations of sexual harassment and more saw Weinstein’s personal and professional reputation spiral out of control in a spectacular fashion – a stark contrast to the authority he’s used to commanding in the producer’s chair.
Only days after the first allegations Weinstein’s wife announced she was leaving him despite his previous assurances that his wife “stands 100 percent behind” him. In a brave act of solidarity with the complainants, she revealed, “My heart breaks for all the women who have suffered tremendous pain because of these unforgivable actions. I have chosen to leave my husband.”
Denouncing his actions and distancing herself from his tainted reputation should surely help protect hers? Not so far. Outraged fans of the complainants have called for a boycott of Mrs Weinstein’s company, Marchesa. The fashion brand, which designs bridalwear, handbags and jewellery has already been dropped by Helzberg Diamonds. US Weekly stylists decided not to use Marchesa gowns unless Chapman left her husband or donated to a women’s charity. Chapman’s business has found itself at the mercy of a moral debate.
It’s unlikely that the mother-of-two would have turned a blind-eye to her husband’s misdemeanours. If she were unaware of his unwelcome sexual advances towards other women surely her reputation, and that of her company, deserve to be spared? It seems Weinstein agrees. In a recent statement following their split, Weinstein claimed, “I fully support her decision. […] I know she has to do what is best for the children, for herself and her business, she employs 130 people.” In spite of his bawdy machismo, it seems Weinstein has an astute eye for reputational matters, aware that his tainted reputation was likely to spread, encompassing his wife, her business and affecting her 130 employees.
For anyone, anywhere, embroiled in a reputation crisis, the first step is to appraise the situation and try to take back control. There needs to be a foolproof, honest public statement about what went wrong. Only in rare cases will a “no comment” approach suffice. Once the eye of the storm has abated, the PR strategy should be reappraised. Any fight back strategy for Marchesa, for example, should encompass how the business plans to disassociate itself from Weinstein. It must emphasise the brand’s credibility away from purely its success on the movie red carpet and demonstrate the leadership team is broader than Mrs Weinstein. Only then can the company begin to move forward from the damage inflicted on its reputation.
As the allegations against the movie mogul continue to mount, who will the reputation contagion claim as its next victim?