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Will Australian workforces face its own Weinstein public relations scandal? – By Nicole Reaney, Director, InsideOut PR

The enchantment of Hollywood has been shattered in the wake of accusations of Harvey Weinstein’s reprehensible conduct. As revelations continue to unfold, his glory years as one of Hollywood’s most powerful has derailed and his public profile irreversibly damaged.

What’s most intriguing is that his own actions has cast a shadow into the image of many within the A-list community. Stars that we have grown with through to younger generations have been implicated through their own vocal or unvocal stance on the matter and this continues as new allegations surface.

Now Australia’s own Tracey Spicer is about to expose personalities and professionals within the media and entertainment sector – engaging legal, police and witnesses. Over 400 women have relayed with own experiences of sexual harassment and the power plays that can so easily seep into workplace cultures.

Without knowing names, one can assume, that like Weinstein, these behaviours stem from people in power – leadership positions where a broader-field employee would be hesitant to disrupt to nurture their own career and personal brand. It could reveal an avalanche of names one by one. These veterans may implicate those around them – men and women peers that knew – or ‘should’ have known, shareholders and the organisation itself. It will be interesting to see if the ‘Weinsteins’ of Australia face the same fate.

And just like Hollywood, the reactions and statements made, as well as those that choose to stay silent will impact personal and company brand perception. When a crisis surfaces, a single action, word, through to timing and frequency can mean the difference between protecting or damaging reputation. Social media has also increased the speed of risk – where personalities can instantly tap away in reaction without considered thought.

There may be ‘backers’ like we saw of Lindsay Lohan and Woody Allen that have the effect of ingraining and normalising this culture. These backers will be met with online fury and shed insight into their history.

Like Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, our nation may have our own ‘golden boys’, uncovered as having allegedly known about these occurrences but not acting and sweeping the information under the carpet as a means to protect their own career. From a personal brand perspective, it’s advisable that those in this seat come forward on their own as it will be harder to regain favourability as stories like these, chip away at their ‘wholesome’ brands.

Oftentimes, senior or established women, are aware or hear of the rumours –as was observed in articles surrounding seasoned women like Angeline Jolie and Gwyneth Paltrow. Redeeming attributes will be held to those that distanced themselves and guided new-to-industry employees, however those seniors will be layered with disapproval for not speaking out or reporting incidents and in a way protecting and prolonging this systemic culture.

There may be people that speak out as being completely unaware but sharing a heartfelt message towards those that come forward with stories. These comments will be taken with a grain of salt – depending on the public’s evaluation on how ‘quiet’ these experiences were.

I’m not sure a #metoo campaign is systemically effective – it only scratches the surface and ignores those who haven’t been directly impacted who too wish to stand against this conduct. For true societal change there needs to be education and an aligned and committed code of conduct, safe platforms for people (often vulnerable) to speak and report incidents – without compromise to their reputation or career and immediate action when these situations do occur. By the same token a safe platform is needed for those who have been accused but may be innocent.

This ‘evidence’ will not just impact individuals – brands, advertisers and companies could also be exposed. As companies align to shareholders and customers, it’s the shareholders and customers of these sectors that will be vital in a genuine game-changer campaign if the allegations are true. Through a well-considered awareness campaign, every industry can provide the fundamental channel for change.

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