Mansfield Inc.

Will Trevor Noah’s image crisis impact viewership?

In early February, long time host Jon Stewart announced that he would be leaving The Daily Show.

At the end of March, Stewart introduced his new replacement, 31-year old South African comedian Trevor Noah. A unique choice, choosing a young international up-and-coming comedy star to take over the seat that Stewart has held for so long.

Then, shortly after the announcement, all hell broke loose.

It seemed that the Noah had some skeletons in his closet, or rather, some old offensive tweets in his closet.


This isn’t the first time an individual’s history on social media has come back to haunt them, and it certainly won’t be the last.

But when you have a brand as large as The Daily Show, it isn’t just the individual who takes heat. Noah, Stewart, The Daily Show and even Comedy Central have been bombarded with tweets and complaints since the announcement was first made.

What we know, all too well now, is that a breaking news story can quickly snowball into a crisis in an Internet minute. It was mere hours after the announcement that Noah would be taking over as host that his tweets from as early as 2010 started resurfacing and that complaints were being directed towards The Daily Show and Comedy Central.

While The Daily Show hiring Noah is a unique brand example and far different than a Fortune 500 company hiring a high profile “C” level executive, there are lessons to be learned from the Trevor Noah crisis:

The first is that screening employees is a drastically important step when hiring a high level employee for your brand. The last thing any organization wants is to be blindsided with an issue or crisis after a big hire.

If any red flags do come up during the screening process, it’s important to consider if the employee is worth going through a potential crisis in the first place. Sometimes, like in the case of Noah, the organization will decide yes. Other times, like in the recent case the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, the organization will choose to distance themselves from the individual.

Lastly, if you do decide the reward is bigger than the risk of the crisis, it’s essential to be proactive ahead of announcing the hire by establishing an effective issues/crisis management plan to deal with any fallout.

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