Case Studies

Will Smith and Bianca Ojukwu: The tale of two slaps

Will Smith and Bianca Ojukwu: The tale of two slaps

Bianca Ojukwu and Will Smith have at least three things in common – they are top celebrities in their own rights, they get great PR coverage and they are both of African descent.

However, they also both have another famous act in common- Bianca Ojukwu and Will Smith are “slap celebrities.” Will slapped a fellow man on stage in front of millions of TV viewers at the Oscars Awards. Bianca slapped a fellow woman at a political event, also later seen by millions of viewers.

2 slaps. 2 different results

Will Smith and Bianca Ojukwu: The tale of two slaps

The slaps by these two celebrities got different media and PR results.

Bianca Ojukwu, the widow of the late Biafran leader, slapped the wife of former Governor Willie Obiano, Ebelechukwu, at the inauguration of Charles Soludo as the new governor of Anambra State.

Former governor Chief Willie Obiano’s wife, Osodieme Obiano, walked to where lady Bianca Odumegwu Ojukwu was seated and exchanged some harsh words, after which she got two dirty slaps in return.

There were no consequences for her action. There was no libel suit filed against her and she did not get any official rebuke or strong media criticism.

Actor Will Smith on the other hand took the stage and slapped Chris Rock because of a joke he made about his wife Jada Pinkett Smith. Will was upset about the comedian’s remark that his wife’s shaved haircut was reminiscent of the famous film character G.I Jane. Jada has been openly suffering with the hair loss condition since 2018.

Will Smith remained at the Oscars even after being requested to leave. He went ahead to receive a standing ovation later in the event. It seemed like Bianca, he had also got away with his action.

But not quite. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences a few days later, banned Will Smith from attending the Oscars or any other academy event for 10 years.

The academy also apologized for its handling of the situation and allowing Smith to stay and accept his best actor award. Smith’s actions were “unacceptable and harmful.”

The academy added: “During our telecast, we did not adequately address the situation in the room. For this, we are sorry,” “This was an opportunity for us to set an example for our guests, viewers and our Academy family around the world, and we fell short — unprepared for the unprecedented.”

Smith who had pre-emptively resigned from the Academy said, “I accept and respect the Academy’s decision.”

The 5 PR lessons in the Will Smith and Bianca Ojukwu slap saga

This dramatic slap event took place worlds apart. What a bizarre coincidence. Here are the valuable celebrity PR and political PR lessons:

  1. Admit your mistakes

The Academy Awards owned up for not acting immediately and accepted full responsibility. This is great PR- make no excuses

  1. Say sorry quickly and mean it

The Academy Awards also apologized quickly and sincerely.

Some companies and celebrities in a PR crisis take too long to apologize when they drop the ball. When they finally do, it becomes too little, too late.

Djokovic Australian Open covid 19 vaccine drama, Tiwa Savage’s sex video scandal did not show PR at its best.

Great PR means sincere apologies without any embellishment.

  1. Self-control before damage control

PR agencies and celebrity managers must drill into their clients the importance of self-control, both on and off stage.

Greatness is a responsibility. Will Smith and Bianca Ojukwu did not remember that. But Will learned the lesson and promised that “never again will I allow violence to overtake reason.” Bianca did not go in that same direction.

  1. After a PR crisis, just move on

Bianca Ojukwu and Will Smith have both moved on. That’s what you do after a PR crisis – but only after cleaning up after you.

  1. Always be prepared

Will Smith and Bianca Ojukwu: The tale of two slaps

The biggest lesson for PR pros is to remember that a crisis is always round the corner. Companies, brands, celebrities and politicians should always have a PR and crisis management plan in place on a proactive basis.

The best approach is to do a scenario analysis and visualize a number of crisis that could come up suddenly, so when it comes, you are not completely caught off guard.

The Academy Awards never expected a slap on stage in the middle of one of the world’s most glamorous shows. Mrs Ojukwu’s dramatic slap also wasn’t part of Governor Charles Soludo’s election celebration agenda.

Always be prepared is a lesson, not only for the Boys Scout.

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