As some of our readers & listeners may know, I have a background in public relations and branding, thus the saga of Milo Yiannopoulos has been of exceptional interest to me, especially in the context of crisis communications over the past few days. I also discuss this on today’s Electric Libertyland podcast (after the sponsor break), but for now, some textual musings.
The brilliance of Milo Yiannopoulos’ moves today during his press conference can’t be understated. I don’t pretend to know how much of what transpired in the past 48 hours was preconceived well in advance by his team but his reaction to it and pivots have been masterful.
To recap, videos in which Breitbart.com editor, speaker and media personality Milo Yiannopoulos discussed sensitive topics led to him being accused of condoning pedophilia. These accusations broke on a conservative news site named the “Reagan Battalion” roughly 48 hours ago and were quickly devoured and disseminated by the MSM.
Milo had discussed “relationships between younger boys and older men — the sort of ‘coming of age’ relationship — those relationships in which those older men help those young boys discover who they are and give them security and safety and provide them with love and a reliable, sort of rock, where they can’t speak to their parents.”
He also made comments about boys of a younger age, which he clarified was in reference to his own past, during which he was molested at a young age.
I don’t want to recap all of his statements, many of which do seem to be taken out of context and exaggerated, especially considering his public persona and penchant for making outlandish and glib comments. Those comments are available at the NY Daily News link above, along with the full video interview. What I want to focus on is the fallout and subsequent reaction. The fallout:
1. Milo’s book, currently sitting atop the Amazon pre-sales list, “Dangerous” was dropped by publisher Simon & Schuster yesterday.
2. Milo was dropped from a speaking role at CPAC (Conservative Political Action Conference) upcoming.
In the wake of these happenings, Milo called a press conference today, during which the following items were revealed:
1. His book already has several new suitors.
This is in no way surprising, and Simon & Schuster made a foolish move in dropping the title so quickly. They rushed into damage control mode, made a snap decision and now someone else will reap the benefit. A hasty call after they had already made the initial risk of signing him and bore the brunt of public backlash. Milo will get a far better deal from a new publisher, and the book will continue to rack up pre-sales, especially with the stated promise of a “new chapter” looking at these past few days.
2. He will be resigning immediately from Breitbart.com.
Looking at this from the outside, we can believe that he is resigning for his stated reasons, that they were supportive of him, he has no ill will, etc., and that he didn’t want to bring negative attention to them because of these comments. However, this has given Milo the perfect opportunity to pivot away from Breitbart.com, which, fair or not, has become synonymous with the Alt-Right, Antisemitism and other problematic issues. Thus, he has been able to free himself from a negative association that could potentially hinder him moving forward under the guise of doing “the right thing” by them.
3. He will be launching his own online media platform.
Now that he is free from Breitbart, his own portal is unhindered to launch on its own without the weight or negativity of the Breitbart brand. Whatever Milo Yiannopoulos’ new brand/media platform turns out to be is yet to be determined, but it gives him a massive boost from a branding and economic perspective, as he will have full ownership and control of all content.
4. Most importantly…Milo humanized himself.
Was Milo Yiannopoulos a weeping mess, vowing to change his ways? No. But he was human and he admitted fault, admitted weakness and confessed personal challenges, including his own molestation, stated in the very first sentence of his conference. That humanization will go a long way to placate his many detractors. In apologizing for his statements, “for the first time,” (and after which he assured he would likely not do again) he showed that he has a different side from his public persona, adopting a very professional, somber and humble look (actually he looked like Harry Potter) and cadence for virtually the entire duration of his comments.
In summation, Milo Yiannopoulos has gained far more than he has lost as a result of his media firestorm. He has perfectly positioned himself to re-emerge as a more coherent personal brand that will be extended into an online media portal. From this he can cross promote and leverage all of his various avenues of personal income and public outreach – content, books, public speaking – all united under this new “TBD” brand.
You can hate the man and his politics, but you can’t help but be impressed with the deftness of touch with which he has navigated these rough waters. By striking him down Milo Yiannopoulos has “Obi Wanned” everyone – the establishment, the media, the left and the right. He’s become more powerful than we can ever imagine.
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