turkmenistan leaderIt’s well known that the services of singers and celebrities are available to those who can afford them. They are performers, after all. There’s no problem with this unless celebrities are seen taking money for these performances from unsavory characters. That’s exactly what Jennifer Lopez has recently done. In today’s connected world, the choices celebrities, brands, businesses, and agencies make have more of an impact than ever, and people take notice.
J-Lo Goes to Turkmenistan (Oops)
If you haven’t heard already, news broke yesterday that Jennifer Lopez, a celebrity who has to manage her brand and image like any other celebrity, made a move that is certainly going to harm her reputation – and the internet isn’t letting it go. As Rahim Kanani reports on Forbes, J-Lo performed for lots of money in “one of the world’s most repressive countries [by] singing happy birthday to President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov of Turkmenistan.”
Why is this a problem? Some people might think it’s an easy way for them to make a lot of money. And it definitely is. The problem is that Jennifer Lopez works hard and vocally to support good causes for women and people in need. It’s a good thing and it’s also good for her brand as an entertainer. Then she performs for the leader of a country responsible for human rights abuses the likes of “Sudan, Syria, Cuba, and others” as Max Fisher writes on the Washington Post.
I have to admit, I’m fairly interested in this story. I spent two years in one of Turkmenistan’s close neighbors, Kyrgyzstan. The stories I heard and learned about Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan (both countries where Jennifer Lopez has performed for dictators for millions) were awful and I find it amazing that Lopez would go through with something like this, regardless of the price. Her worth far exceeds the pay; one would guess she didn’t need the money.
A Reminder for Anyone Managing a Brand or Image
This example (one out of many) shows once again that consistency in message and action are important to people. A business or agency cannot say one thing and do another or vice verse. The internet is simply too good at catching these things when they happen. The power of social media permits that information to spread like wildfire, thus harming the brand and sometimes causing serious damage and financial loss due to boycotts and lost consumers.
If Lopez actually cared (of if her handlers cared) they “could have spent 30 seconds on the internet to double check” the reality on the ground in Turkmenistan as Rahim Kanani reminds us. Not only that, but every time these issues arise, the internet has a way of bringing to the surface all past mistakes related, and now everyone has been reminded that J-Lo has conducted these questionable performances for horrible people twice in the past.
Band-aid tactics don’t work to recover from these mistakes. Better to be safe than sorry and to research and think through anything you put out to the public. It’s also better to make sure any campaign or initiative you begin or join is in line with your beliefs as a company to avoid calls of hypocrisy and reputation problems online.
And no, Jennifer, “sorry” doesn’t cut it.
Why do you think Lopez agreed to sing for a dictator again?
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