Blog Post

The Pessimist's PR Playbook: Some Catcalls, Some Comedy, and One Career-Cramping Opinion


By Shannon Delaney

If there's one thing I've learned after being employed in the SEO industry, it's that there are a lot of risks involved -- for both the marketing teams creating the content, and the businesses investing in SEO campaigns. Sometimes the biggest risks will result in really, really great online campaigns.

But sometimes these risks fail so hard that the internet doesn’t know whether to laugh or cry.

If we're being honest, there's nothing better than a good dose of Schadenfreude every now and again to lift one's spirits. It was hard to pick just one painfully great failure in the world of internet marketing and social media, and this particular story might be considered "old" in terms of SEO, but it was just too good to pass up.


Meet Michael Che, The Man Who Sees One Person’s Discomfort As His Own Comedic Content

He's a comedian on the 40-year-long NBC hit show Saturday Night Live. Che made his SNL debut this season as a featured actor and co-anchor for the beloved Weekend Update segment.

If you've watched SNL, you'll know that Che seems like a mild-mannered guy. He's not the greatest, but he's also not the worst. He’s a valuable counterpart to co-host Colin Jost, who, with his chiseled jawline and perfectly gelled hair, was a predictable follow-up for past Update hosts like Chevy Chase and Seth Meyers. But Che has potential. He brings diversity.

And then he decided to share his thoughts on street harassment after a video of a woman being catcalled on NYC streets -- over 100 individual instances in a span of 10 hours -- went viral.

If you haven’t seen the video -- oh, let’s be honest. You’ve definitely seen the video by now. Everyone and their mother has seen it. (If you haven't seen it, go watch it. Now.) The video was sponsored by the nonprofit anti-street harassment advocacy group Hollaback!, and like other viral photos and videos, this catcalling video was intended to make waves.

Having a budding comedian discuss the video on social media with thousands of followers sounds like a good thing, right? Get the attention of the youths, show ‘em that an adult role model is concerned about something, and watch the support go viral -- right? [Note: Che deleted his original post shortly after sharing it.]

Apparently, Che knows exactly what it feels like to be harassed and catcalled. He knows how a woman feels when a strange man sidles up next to her on the bus and demands to know how she fell from heaven. Che chose to become a public figure and show his face on national TV every week, just like women choose to wear normal clothes which fit their natural human body parts, instead of walking around in refrigerator boxes all day. When Che is complimented for his humor, he feels the same degradation that grown women feel when teenage boys whistle at them.

The internet wasn't too pleased with Mr. Che's comparison. Probably because it was a terrible comparison. On a scale of ‘One’ to ‘Comparing Apples and Oranges,’ Che’s comparison was somewhere around the level of ‘Likening a Pomegranate Seed to a Coconut.’

Now, the sensible thing for Che to do would be to go on Twitter and explain himself, which is exactly what he did:


#Nope.

Online news publications began picking up his self-created PR nightmare, and once it hit websites like The Huffington Post and Buzzfeed, the interwebs exploded. Men and women alike started criticizing his opinion (which no one really asked for in the first place). Hashtags like #StreetHarassment and #DudesGreetingDudes became virtual pitchforks aimed at Che.

Now it was time for an apology. [Note: Che deleted his original post shortly after sharing it.]


Michael Che does not seem to understand how PR works.

Bad Tweet + Worse Tweet + Abominable Tweet = A Personal Brand No One Should Want

Us “normal” people don’t really have to worry about creating and maintaining a brand like a business does. But for someone like Che, who’s building a career in the spotlight, his personal brand is a business brand.

A business’s brand has to remain constant, but promotion of that brand needs to be fluid. When the target audience changes, or when the audience’s sentiments change, the business needs to be flexible enough to respond.

Take, for example, Budweiser. Everyone knows that Budweiser is America’s Beer for the Manly Men of America. It’s primarily advertised through distinctive ads, aired during football games, that focus on scantily clad young women.

Then about two months ago, Budweiser came out with this “Drink Responsibly -- Friends Are Waiting” video which shows vignettes of your traditional All-American male and his adorable dog. From sleepy puppy hugs to warm cuddles on the couch, these second-long scenes remind us why we love our pets, and we start feeling all the happy, fuzzy feels. Then the Manly American Man is seen leaving with friends (a case of beer in hand, of course), and we see the dog waiting at home… and waiting… and waiting… And then the words “For some, the waiting never ended.”

The world stops turning for a solid minute every time those 60 seconds are played, and if you don’t start bawling while watching, your eyeballs definitely start sweating a little bit.

It ain’t no coincidence, my friends, that Budweiser took this approach as new data shows that a) more women are voluntarily choosing to drink beer, and b) more Millennials, most of whom are now of legal drinking age, are choosing craft beer over Big Beer. Budweiser still kept its “American” brand alive, but the brand became more approachable for two new (and very important) target audiences through a viral video that really hit everyone in the Honey Nut Feelios.

And This Is Where Michael Che Failed

Rather than responding to the criticisms of his audience, Che just kept digging a metaphorical grave for his career. It’s as simple as that. He took a risk with his first post, and like any other social media or marketing risk, it had the potential of being great. But it wasn’t great, and his fans told him so. Unlike Budweiser, Che had a temper tantrum when his audience didn’t appreciate his style.

But Che simply doesn’t have the fame, or the fan base, to pull off bizarre virtual outbursts like this. Being so closely tied with SNL, it wouldn’t be surprising if he was canned for his controversial and offensive comments. SNL is notoriously unpredictable with cast hirings and firings, and if the producers were comfortable with firing beloved comedians like Chris Farley and Adam Sandler at the height of their careers, there’s no reason to think that Che is immune.

For the time being, people have already begun forgetting about Che’s commentary as the viral catcalling video starts fading out of the media’s spotlight. But his personal brand has changed -- for the worse, and probably permanently.

And he hasn’t even posted any pictures with More Famous Persons on Twitter yet.