Last week, the Russell Brand PR crisis made headlines as the ‘high profile comedian’ faced a barrage of serious sexual abuse allegations. The day before Channel 4 aired the documentary, Russell Brand took to his previously-abandoned platform of YouTube to deny the accusations that were about to come out about him, to his loyal followers and the scandalised general public alike. 

In a review of the brand communications around the accusations, let’s explore how this move influenced the current understanding of the accusations, and the public’s opinion of Brand. 

The accusations 

Joint investigations began in 2019 into Brand’s alleged misconduct by The Sunday Times, The Times, and Channel 4, uncovered disturbing allegations of sexual assault, rape, and emotional abuse, and involved interviews with “hundreds of people who knew or worked with Brand.” The accusers ranged from a 16-year-old to middle-aged colleagues and employees who accused Brand of workplace misconduct that was coercive and frequently sexual in nature, and occurred dating back to Brand’s peak of fame between 2006 and 2013. 

The response 

In response to the allegations, Brand released a video on his personal social media accounts just a day before the investigation was published. In the video, he vehemently denied all the allegations, asserting that all his past relationships were consensual. He expressed his transparency in past relationships and maintained that he refuted these “very, very serious criminal allegations.” Brand’s response came within an eight-day window provided by The Times for him to address the allegations. 

On the night the investigation was published, Brand performed his comedy show, “Bipolarisation,” in Wembley, England, where he received cheers and a standing ovation from the crowd. Going from comedian to actor to influencer, Brand is best known for his outspoken opinions on a range of topics. His content covers wellness, conspiracy theories, spirituality, and addiction. He’s always been outspoken about politics, his anti-establishment stance, and increasingly right-wing views over the years.

Brand’s brand 

The situation is a contentious one. Accusations of sexual misconduct, particularly ones where accusations are not brought to criminal trial, defaults the public to the ‘trial by media’ discourse. This can create patterns in public discourse of questioning the truth behind the accusations, and whether this should be allowed to impact the accused’s life and career. 

Russell Brand’s response to the accusations has further fuelled this complex narrative. In his video statement, Brand suggested that he believed himself to be the subject of a “coordinated attack” by media outlets Channel 4 and The Times, who worked on the investigation together. As reported in The Telegraph, Brand is a master at using language to both obfuscate and bedazzle. His statement was designed to blur. This narrative immediately raises doubts about the veracity of the women’s testimonies, labelling them as part of a larger conspiracy to tarnish Brand’s reputation. 

Brand’s following has largely jumped onto this narrative across social media, with his statement contributing to a climate of conspiratorial thinking. They speculate that Brand’s outspoken views on various issues, including government criticism, have made him a target. Some individuals, particularly those in the same political sphere as Brand, are quick to question whether there is another agenda at play. GB News presenter Bev Turner went as far as to call Brand a “hero” after offering him an open invitation to appear on her show.

What about everyone else?

The debate remains complex and difficult to conclude, as without a formal criminal investigation, Brand cannot be charged with anything. Of course, the very nature of names like The Times and Channel 4 investigating and reporting this news may accelerate a criminal investigation. It has made some impressed and sympathetic, while others sceptical. In the end, this will tarnish Brand’s name in the public eye, but it will also serve to make his devoted following more convinced, more invested, and more defensive of his brand. 

Brand has already been dropped from some of his current projects, such as ties being cut by women’s charity Trevi, YouTube halts his monetisation, his contribution to Jeremy Corbyn’s poetry collection dropped, and as well as being dropped by his management company who released a statement about being ‘misled’ by him. The news has also brought to light uncomfortable jokes from Brand’s past, including times he was fired from MTV, his last major TV job, as well as the infamous BBC radio 2 scandal, all for inappropriate behaviour. 

His current standing, as more of an influencer than public figure, means he can maintain his current standing and following as long as they believe in his insistent innocence. Which, currently, they seem to, and as other large right-wing names who consider themselves to have been under ‘Andrew Tate treatment’ stand by him, and make this divide in opinion part of the anti-cancel culture movement. 

What do we know about brand comms? 

While we can’t make judgement on the situation at hand, we can spot a well-crafted statement, and recognise how positioning can change the context of a situation at hand. It’s a move well-utilised by branded businesses, individuals or organisations, in order to best present themselves at every opportunity. 

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Katie Sessions Account Executive
At Faith, Katie is responsible for helping to manage client accounts and deliver communications plans, alongside continuing to craft compelling stories that resonate with audiences.