13 April 2007
Don Imus, of who I am no fan, is out. I am sympathetic, but not swayed by the free speech arguments. His platform was enshrined in his contract with CBS and MSNBC. Two organizations who live and die by perceptions. Some time ago I was involved with a promotion involving the Dixie Chicks. It was a good (and expensive) project. It targeted our main demographic and looked like a real winner. A coup for our brands. Then they made their statements in the UK. Upon reading these comments I contacted the planning director and asked if I should pull the promotion. He scoffed at me and said the issue would blow over.
Five hours later I was contacted by a VP with orders to suspend the promotion. This cost the firm a LOT of money. The market reacted to the possible perception surrounding the comments by the Dixie Chicks. They certainly had the right to say whatever they wanted, however, as they made their livelihood in the realm of perception, they were subject to its risks and consequences.
Imus has found out the same thing. His comments were ignorant and unkind. However, his point about the lack of remorse for the overzealous persecution of the Duke lacrosse players is well made and underscores our present state of hyper-political correctness.
It's a jungle out there!