3 Tips for Dealing with the Law of Unintended Consequences

Source: History Channel

Oh, the wrath of social media.

The producers of the mini-series “The Bible” batted down online suggestions that an actor who plays Satan on the 10-hour cable series was intentionally made up to resemble President Obama.

"History Channel has the highest respect for President Obama. The series was produced with an international and diverse cast of respected actors. It's unfortunate that anyone made this false connection,” the History Channel said in a statement released on March 18. “History’s 'The Bible' is meant to enlighten people on its rich stories and deep history."

Social media was atwitter last weekend about the actor who portrays Satan, Mohamen Mehdi Ouazanni, bearing a striking resemblance to President Obama.

“Just caught 5 minutes of #TheBible on History Channel...Satan looks like Obama—say what?!” and “Satan looks like Obama. Coincidence? #theBible” were just two of the tweets in response to the Ouazanni's first appearance as Satan, per BuzzFeed.

Traditional media outlets also chimed in: “'The Bible'”: Does Satan look like Obama in History Channel miniseries” asked CBSNews.com, while the Huffington Post didn’t even couch its headline with a question mark: “'The Bible': Satan Actor Looks Like Obama In History Channel Miniseries”

According to The New York Times, “The Bible” has been among the most successful shows on cable television this year, pulling in more than 13 million viewers for its premiere. The program is now likely to draw even more eyeballs, but not necessarily for the right reasons.

PR News spoke with Steve Cody, co-founder and managing partner of Peppercomm, about a few tips for PR pros how to with the law of unintended consequences:

  1. When in doubt, leave it out. “Someone had to have had noticed that [the actor portraying Satan] has a striking resemblance to President Obama,” Cody said, “and should have said, ‘This could be a problem.’”
  2. Avoid “inside-out, top-down” thinking, according to Cody. “You need to put yourselves in the shoes of the audience” and consider how they will respond to the programming, content or any medium that is a reflection of your brand, he said.
  3. Think long ball. Cody stressed that when delivering content communicators must consider the long-term strategy of their company versus a short-term fix, which, initially, could spark a surge of interest in the brand but may ultimately erode your company’s goodwill.

What do you think? How would you deal with such a crisis?

Matthew Schwartz: @mpsjourno1




About Matthew Schwartz

Group Editor, PR News: Matthew Schwartz is group editor of PR News, the leading source of trends, how-to content and best practices for PR professionals. Matthew leads the editorial strategy for PR News’ premium content products—including its weekly newsletter—and for its digital presence. Matthew was editor of PR News from 2003-2005. Prior to returning to PR News, Matthew was a reporter for Crain’s BtoB and Media Business magazines, where he covered business marketers and media companies. He was also editor of BMA Buzz, a biweekly email newsletter covering B2B marketing, advertising and social media, and contributing writer to Advertising Age Custom. Matthew has helped to launch blogs on behalf of ZoomInfo and direct marketing agency The Kern Organization. He also spent a few years in cable-news precincts, working as a writer/producer at CNN and Fox News Channel.

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  • Rich Klein

    One other angle on the story is the statement attributed to producer Roma Downey. In it, she left the impression that the main reason she admires President Obama was BECAUSE he is “a fellow Christian.” I can only hope that Ms. Downey admires the President because of his character — and that she would like him just as much if he was Jewish, Muslim, Hindu or an atheist.

  • Michael Molligan

    Short-term all this absurd chatter will drive more viewers to the show and long-term I don’t see this issue causing the History Channel to lose viewers. As long as they provide compelling content, people will tune in.