The handling of rape allegations being made toward Bill Cosby raises a number of public relations strategy questions and confirms some Karl James public relations perspectives. We address a couple of these below.

How does high-profile celebrity Bill Cosby seemingly not understand the rules of media interviews?

Our take after watching this recent Associated Press interview with Bill Cosby centers on arrogance rather than ignorance of the reporter rules. Similar to the old adage “power corrupts,” power also creates a sense of being beyond the rules. Know this when working with public relations counsel to prepare for media interviews: no matter what you are told, no question is off limits.

When in public relations crisis, your attorney will always be wrong

Bill Cosby’s attempt to bury the interview on camera pales only to the response issued by his attorney. The attorney letter threatens media. It confirms our perspective on lawyers’ approach to public relations: When in crisis, your attorney will always be wrong.

The rules of winning in the court room are different from the rules of winning over public opinion. Attorneys are correct that “saying nothing” works for court proceedings. If you don’t say anything, it cannot be used against you in a court of law. And, attorneys must be part of dealing with any crisis situation. But know this: most attorneys fall back on their legal training and are not considering whether the court of public opinion will bury you before and regardless of what the court of law determines.

The wave of allegations by alleged victims of Bill Cosby, coupled with a prosecutor’s comments on TV’s iconic fatherly figure’s guilt—albeit, admittedly, unprovable in a court of law—has lead to NBC and Netflix pulling new ventures featuring Bill Cosby. And TV Land has removed re-runs of The Cosby Show. The new shows on NBC and Netflix provided the impetus for allegations against Cosby to gain traction.  Certainly there are many strategies to consider in resurrecting the Cosby brand. Many of which, we as outsiders remain, unaware. Hoping this goes away, however, will not move Cosby beyond this round of rape allegations. Removing himself from the public spotlight, never to venture into public again, might work. But every time Cosby resurfaces, the questions will be there waiting for him.

So why are people listening to the allegations of Bill Cosby that have existed for decades? The Christian Science Monitor has an interesting take.

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