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When PR Fires Reignite (And How to Douse the Flames)

Published on April 8, 2024, 11:35 a.m.
by Jackson Olmstead.

“Oh that’s not–” is a quote that has recently become ingrained into the vocabulary of TikTok users around the world. The phrase,

Photo via The Today Show

a reference to a co-host’s response to Kelly Osborne’s racist comments on “The View,” surged in early 2024 as a social media trend. Users created their own renditions of politically incorrect takes followed by the signature “Oh that’s not–” garnering millions of views and likes. What most users might not recognize is that Osborne’s discriminatory statements occurred nearly a decade ago, in August 2015.

A public relations crisis that has been effectively dealt with in the way that Osborne’s was should simply fade away over time, right? Unfortunately, this is not always a guarantee; this crisis that has resurfaced is not the first of its kind to do so, and will definitely not be the last.

Analyzing a crisis
PR crisis management can be difficult to navigate because of the grip the 24-hour news cycle has over society, which is even stronger on social media. When analyzing a crisis, a communications professional must ask a series of questions to determine the severity of the crisis, and in turn, determine how urgent action is needed. The answers to these questions can change depending on what has already been made public.

In Osborne’s crisis moment on “The View,” one of the main questions that would have been asked in analysis of the situation would be, “Will this spoil your brand’s image?” With comments like these, the answer is an obvious “yes” — it will not only negatively impact Osborne’s brand, but also the brand of “The View” and the television network as an unintended consequence.

Outwardly, Osborne appeared to have very little of a strategic plan to handle the crisis and did not have a representative to speak for her at the time. Instead, she took to Facebook to make her public comment, which could be considered in poor taste due to the post’s vulgar language. Nevertheless, she did apologize.

When a crisis resurfaces
Most recently in 2024, when the crisis resurfaced in the form of a TikTok trend, Osborne and

Photo via Rolling Stone

her team took a different course of action. She acknowledged the trend had caused one of her self-described most embarrassing moments to resurface, saying, “It’s the worst thing I’ve ever done.” Acknowledging that the crisis has resurfaced is a best practice in PR crisis management.

Osborne went a step further by speaking to numerous news and entertainment outlets to talk about the regret she feels for those comments. She also highlighted her personal growth when speaking about race and being mindful with sensitive topics, saying she is “definitely not the person I was.”

The court of public opinion still appears to deliver a mixed verdict — one that accepts her apology and one that continues to hold her accountable for her comments, even a decade later. But, Osborne and her team appeared to take proper corrective action this time around. Hopefully, she has learned her lesson, and taught PR professionals and celebrities a lesson in the process about the gravity their words hold in the public eye.

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