In some way, I feel just a bit sorry for the guy. Here’s a young man working for a prime time entertainment newscast and on the cusp of a great career. He interviews Donald Trump who at the time is 11 years removed from running for the highest elected office in the United States. Billy was not the one spouting the vulgar, supposedly “off-the-record” comments that were made in a semi-private setting. He didn’t instigate the matter and I’m sure only pretended to go along with it so as not to make waves. It must have seemed prudent to do so given the reasonable assumption that the conversation would never make it to air…
…or so it seemed.
We know the rest of the story. Just over a decade later, the piece winds it way into the political dialogue. The backlash was not only felt by the now Republication Presidential candidate, but even more so by the budding television personality who now finds himself essentially blackballed from mainstream media, at least for now.
Here’s where it went bad for Billy; the moment when he crossed the line. After emerging with Mr. Trump from the bus where the celebrity’s vile comments were spoken, Billy asked soap star Arianne Zucker to give The Donald a hug. That’s right. He requested that the woman embrace the very person who denigrated her. At that instance, Billy went from spectator to accomplice. This act made him, whether he meant to be or not, a wiling participant.
Now I’m not suggesting that Billy either condones or believes in the subjugation of women. Rather, I believe he went along with Mr. Trump because he thought it was necessary to appease his interviewee and keep the story on track. That serious lack in judgment proved costly, if not professionally fatal. Days later, Billy went from being a rising star who only recently landed a coveted role in NBC’s Today program, to a “has been.” The cardinal mistake was when he went against what I surmise to be his own values and those of his employer. I predict it will be quite some time before we see Billy on air again. Even if we do, he’ll possess this serious stain on his persona.
Here are the two big lessons for marketers…
First, we may be tempted to conduct initiatives in partnership with other well known brands, even if they conflict with our core values. This happens far too frequently, and almost always to the detriment of our own organizations. Don’t travel down that easy path. It will most certainly end badly.
Second, nothing is ever “off the record.” In an interview, never assume that you’re speaking “just between the fellas.” The consequences can be huge, as was the case with Billy Bush. Granted it may take a while, but when it happens, the impact will be severe and painful.