Hollywood has developed countless ways to handle a scandal like the toxic workplace environment investigation The Ellen DeGeneres Show now faces. The scandal has changed how Ellen DeGeneres is perceived, hurting the nice persona audiences have grown familiar with during the day for almost two decades. Outside of a public apology to her staffers in which she did not take responsibility for her senior producers' actions, DeGeneres has mostly stayed quiet on the situation herself. This is all likely part of a plan devised by experienced public relations specialists, and experts told Vice Friday.
DeGeneres' apology was just one part of an attempt to salvage her own reputation. Several celebrities who appeared on Ellen, including Alec Baldwin, Diane Keaton, Jay Leno, and Katy Perry, have defended DeGeneres. HeraldPR President Juda Engelmayer, who worked for Paula Deen and Harvey Weinstein, and Infinite Global founder Jamie Diaferia told Vice these statements may have been orchestrated. They said their first move in a crisis like DeGeneres' would be to ask the client to reach out to friends to show public support.
"I'm guessing that somebody is using their Rolodex to get in touch with as many people as they can, people they know who have had good experiences with her, people who have been supportive in the past," Diaferia explained. She noted that many of the defenses came out on the same day, leading Diaferia to believe it was a "fairly coordinated" effort.
Engelmayer said the next step might be asking DeGeneres for a list of everyone who might have had a negative experience with her to understand the allegations. Her advisor might put together responses or each incident. "If she's working with a qualified crisis communications firm, she is probably sitting down with an Excel spreadsheet, and she's doing bullet points on this person, that person, and the other person," Engelmayer said, adding it would be "foolish" not to.
The experts predict there could be more celebrity supporters coming out before DeGeneres releases another apology. She could even devote an episode to the situation, featuring interviews with former staffers and experts on healthy workplaces. She would have to "start by addressing the elephant in the room," Diaferia said. DeGeneres needs to "talk about what happened," why it was wrong and what the future will look like. They also suggested DeGeneres should have one-on-one meetings with her employees to apologize once production resumes personally.
Later on, DeGeneres could do a "rehabilitation tour" with interviews on morning shows like the Today Show. DeGeneres should find an interview who is "a little more friendly, but also credible, that will give you some tough questions, but not too tough," Diafera said. DeGeneres' team should also "carefully" craft the message to get across "so that you at least have a sense of what you're going to say, and it's very carefully controlled."
Engelmayer predicted a few months after the scandal, DeGeneres' controlled response might help Americans to move on. "As long as you're doing better and keeping me happy and keeping me entertained, I'll forgive you," she told Vice. But it is not clear if that could actually happen in a world where every celebrity's transgressions are available instantly at any time.