Bill Cosby Is Making PR Mistakes

I decided to write this because the new storm surrounding legendary comedian and family icon Bill Cosby has stunned me. I watched The Cosby Show, Cosby, loved the book “Fatherhood”, and saw his standup comedy specials. When I started ProActiveDads in 2008, he was a role model for what we fought for when it came to dads in the media. Now, the accusations are coming in waves with woman after woman dating back 45 years. As all of this unfolds and I see Cosby’s reaction (or lack thereof), I continue to think that Bill Cosby is making PR mistakes.

Before this post continues, I want to make it clear that I am not second-guessing the PR people employed by Bill Cosby. From what I have seen and heard over the years, they are some of the most successful people in the business and have been for decades. But they are not the only people involved. A-list celebrities are surrounded by a variety of advisors including public relations specialists, lawyers, agents, studios, costars, friends, family, and many others. All of them have opinions. Most of them offer advice. Some are paid for their advice. That advice doesn’t always agree with another party or the celebrity. Ultimately, the celebrity needs to choose their own action.

Silence Anything But Golden

This is where I believe Bill Cosby is faltering. He is facing an expensive, damaging, and career-ending barrage of accusations. Could the lawyers really be the best helpers when they advise total silence? Every interview has been a “no comment”. Even when the AP tried to play “gotcha” with their recent interview release, he still said nothing.

I find myself more and more in the camp of spectators who believe that this many accusers can’t all be making this up. It is already public knowledge that Bill Cosby has cheated on his wife Camille. Also shocking is the fact that I haven’t seen or heard any reports of his Cosby Show cast members coming to his defense. Most of them were female. Where are they? Thus far, only Raven-Symone has said she was never a victim. But where are Lisa Bonet, Tempestt Bledsoe, Keshia Knight Pulliam, and Sabrina Le Beauf…all of whom knew and worked with Bill Cosby when they were young? Where is his TV wife, Phylicia Rashad? To have so many accusers and so few supporters is surprising for a man so well respected. And each of them is now suffering financially because The Cosby Show reruns have been pulled from TV Land.

The women making accusations are not just unknowns who may be seeking a pay day. They are an assortment of women from all walks of life with a similar story: Cosby allegedly drugged (or tried to drug) them, then took advantage of them physically and/or sexually. Some have tried to sue him, others have come out now for the first time and say they aren’t seeking a dime.

Take PR Advice

Agents and PR experts are usually the ones advising clients to “get in front of the controversy”. Make strong denials, be bold, circle the wagons with friends and family, etc. Lawyers usually advise absolute silence because anything said can be used against their client in a trial. These accusations have been around for more than four decades and will not be going away any time soon. They seem to be the “nail in the coffin”, as Carla Ferrigno said, to his career.

Were Bill Cosby my client, I would certainly be advising more than “no comment”.

  • Speak to the media
    • Put your face out there to show a human side against so many accusations of inhuman acts
    • Don’t let the accusers control the story
    • Give the media new material
  • Work WITH the lawyers – but don’t allow them to be the only voice
  • Get your friends and family to defend you. Strongly. In public.
  • Highlight your history of charitable giving
  • Stop asking people to do things online, like recording laugh tracks and asking social media to “meme” you.

If he is guilty, he needs to admit it. Get counseling, stay with your wife, go to rehab, do jail time if necessary, and work to help victims. Take a page from Lance Armstrong – lying makes it worse. If he is innocent, he should proclaim it all day, every day. The truth shall set you free.

What Happens to Bill Cosby?

So many accusers.
So few defenders.
So much silence.

I don’t see any way for this to end well. Cosby’s career is destroyed. His wife and children (who many know about his true behavior) are forced to endure this. His former co-stars are forced to endure this.

He needs to speak. Now.

What do you think? Can his career be saved? Is he right to stay silent? Share your thoughts in the comments below.


This post reflects the opinions of Nathan Greenberg and may not represent the official position or opinions of Arkside Marketing, Inc., its employees, clients, vendors, or partners.


  1. November 21, 2014 at 2:56 pm

    My initial reaction was “nahhh – no way – not the Cosmeister – not him. He was always an idol to so many of us – black, white and the full rainbow. He transcended color completely to just offer humor – humor without a racial tone whatsoever. He portrayed a dentist for heaven’s sake – not the guy manning the corner shoeshine stand!

    However, I’m developing the same feelings you expressed and feel he should be blazing through all media outlets with denials etc if he’s truly innocent and gaining support from those near & dear to him as well as former colleagues.

    Honestly, I think he needs to hire you for some realy “GOOD” advice for a change because I think his ship is rapidly losing wind in its sails.

    • November 24, 2014 at 8:46 am

      He was actually an OB/GYN, not a dentist.
      He may be getting good advice from his PR team but not listening to it. In addition to the rape accusations, a former NBC executive is admitting to being the guy who allegedly arranged the meetings, secret locations, and hush money..all at Bill Cosby’s request. Even Cosby’s attorneys aren’t calling these claims lies – just unsubstantiated. Cosby himself isn’t suing anyone for libel or slander. If someone accused me of rape, you can bet I would go after them for lying.

      I think Cosby’s career is appropriately finished.

  2. Ana-Reply
    November 22, 2014 at 7:06 am

    I agree that his silence is fanning the flames. It comes off as arrogance and belligerence. And with so many women coming forward many not seeking money–his refusal to address this makes him look guilty. This happened so long ago–the statues of limitation have run out so he cannot be legally punished (I don’t think) now that time has run out so why not come clean? Like Tiger Woods–admit to some sexual addiction, go for treatment and maybe he’s got a chance to recover from this in his lifetime. And until your article here I haven’t even realized the glaring fact that he’s got so few vocal supporters female or male. I haven’t heard one and I follow the news. The proof is in the pudding!

    • November 24, 2014 at 8:37 am

      The closest thing I have seen to a polite response is the Carsey-Werner production company who simply said “the reports are beyond our knowledge or comprehension.” Again, not a “we have never known Bill Cosby to be a womanizer or inappropriate in any way with young women in the years we worked with him. He continues to have our friendship and support.” Now, a former NBC executive has gone farther and admitted to being the guy who paid many women over the years with hush money, set up meetings, and provided secret locations. This is a PR disaster for Cosby and he needs to change his approach.

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