November 17, 2017
    The most important thing your association should learn from the Weinstein scandal

    Three takeaways from how AMPAS handled his membership

    By Adele Gambardella-Cehrs | 10/19/2017

    The Harvey Weinstein scandal has been noted as the “best kept open secret” among A-list celebrities. From Gwyneth Paltrow to Courtney Love, more than 40 women have come forward with allegations of sexual harassment and assault against the critically acclaimed film director, according to CNN Money.

    In a series of events, Weinstein was ousted from the company he started with his brother, his wife left him, and he was exiled from the nonprofit Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (which awards the Oscars).

    In fact, the scandal prompted a social media hashtag "#metoo," which has been shared more than 12 million times on a variety of social media platforms, according to CBS News. To say this is a “culture movement” would be an understatement.

    This is only the second time in the Academy’s history that the organization has chosen to kick out a member since its inception in 1922. It took three hours for the Academy’s board of governors, made up of well-known celebrities, to reach a vote to permanently revoke Weinstein’s membership. What can an association learn from the Academy in this instance?

    Make your statement sharable 

    The Academy came out with a smart and simple statement nine days after the scandal broke:

    “As the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences we do so not simply to separate ourselves from someone who does not merit the respect of his colleagues but also to send a message that the era of willful ignorance and shameful complicity in sexually predatory behavior and workplace harassment in our industry is over.”

    The statement showed the association was aware of the magnitude of the allegations and the public’s reaction and responded accordingly. 

    Remain consistent

    While it is never an easy decision to choose to permanently ban a member, it is important that associations remain consistent. It should be noted that other scandal-ridden actors and directors like Mel Gibson and Bill Cosby are still members of the Academy.

    This brings into question whether the decision to expel Weinstein was done for the good of the profession, or the potential perception ramifications the organization might have experienced if they had not chosen not to take a stand.

    Consider timing

    Had the organization waited longer, the association itself would have been potentially skewered by the media and its members. In today’s 24-hour news cycle, it is critical for associations to have a real-time crisis communication plan in place to respond appropriately.

    The association was under an incredible amount of scrutiny and acted just in the nick of time to get praised by the New York Times for its decision. This type of a scandal puts a spotlight on the need for associations to respond in real-time to culture moments that drive awareness to their profession and organization.

    (Editor’s note: In a statement published by the Guardian news website, Weinstein spokeswoman Sallie Hofmeister said: “Any allegations of nonconsensual sex are unequivocally denied by Mr Weinstein. With respect to any women who have made allegations on the record, Mr Weinstein believes that all of these relationships were consensual.”)

    Adele Gambardella-Cehrs is a columnist for the Wall Street Journal and Inc. magazine, and a highly sought-after keynote speaker who has interviewed some of the most successful executives in the world. She also has contributed to Association TRENDS. Her clients include ASAE, Lockheed Martin and DuPont. She is considered both a promotional brand guru and crisis communication expert. Her recent keynote at the United Nations was translated into 27 languages and broadcasted around the world. She is the CEO of Epic, a real-time marketing agency, which helps organizations and individuals to improve their media footprint and gain name share. 

    Gambardella-Cehrs recently conducted a webinar for TRENDS on “How to Take a Stand in Real-Time…and Win: Smart PR Strategies for Raising the Visibility & Value of Your Association Brand.” Missed it? You can order the recording here.

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