#CosbyMeme Backfires

Social media campaigns do not always go as planned. PR professionals can’t predict how something will spread. Once it goes viral, it’s hard to take back. In the case of the #CosbyMeme, the campaign created lots of buzz but none of it shed Bill Cosby in a positive light.

According to a PR Daily article, “His team tweeted a photo of [Bill] Cosby to his four million Twitter followers along with a link to a meme generator. It took almost no time at all for the Internet to hijack the #CosbyMeme hashtag with images and text referencing rape allegations made against Cosby a decade ago.” 

Screen Shot 2014-11-12 at 8.35.06 PM In 2004, Cosby was accused of drugging and sexually harassing a dozen women. The case was settled out of court but because of increased focus on domestic violence, the allegations were recently dredged up in the media. Cosby was never charged with any offense.

In response to the memes, Cosby’s PR team utilized text filters to keep people from using words such as  “rape” and “rapist” but people easily found ways around it.

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The meme generator was quickly taken down after the team realized their mistake, but it was too late. The memes had already spread through social media and became increasingly popular. Most of the comments on Twitter were more about the PR team’s miscalculation than the actual scandal.

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What could the PR team have done to prevent this from happening? Was it their fault for not thinking the campaign through?

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