The Harvey Weinstein scandal is growing arms and legs as each day passes. And few are going to come out of this looking particularly good.

Not only is Weinstein’s world falling apart, but those who knew about his conduct and remained silent - gaining fame or money from his movies - will find themselves dragged into this and made to answer for their seemingly complicit behaviour.

For a brand to associate itself with this mess is total madness.

Which is why Donna Karan was ill-advised to throw herself into the mix, no matter how honourable her intentions, to stick up for a friend.

I know how the system works. Many friends or associates of Weinstein will be pursued by the Press for comment – whether they want to be involved or not.

But George Clooney played it perfectly, by clarifying that despite being close to Weinstein he’d “never seen any of this behaviour – ever” and calling it “indefensible”.

Dame Judi Dench took a similar tack, saying: “Whilst there is no doubt that Harvey Weinstein has helped and championed my career for the past 20 years, I was completely unaware of these offences which are, of course, horrifying, and I offer my sympathy to those who have suffered, and wholehearted support to those who have spoken out."

If your name or brand is likely to be involved with scandal by association, it’s best not to put yourself forward for comment. But if this is unavoidable, give a measured response, and don’t try to deny your links to the scandal-hit person/brand.

Even a “no comment” would have been better than Karan’s head-first tumble into controversy.

She told the Daily Mail that sexually harassed women may be “asking for it” by dressing seductively, adding: “You look at everything all over the world today and how women are dressing and what they are asking by just presenting themselves the way they do. What are they asking for? Trouble.”

Karan, who is a personal friend of Weinstein’s wife, was then asked whether the film mogul had been “busted” and replied: “I don’t think it’s only Harvey Weinstein.”

Within hours of Karan’s comments, her publicists were backpedalling. A statement from the designer the next day said: “Last night, I was honoured at the Cinémoi Fashion Film Awards in Hollywood and while answering a question on the red carpet, I made a statement that unfortunately is not representative of how I feel or what I believe.”

It doesn’t matter that she actually sold her company many years ago, and that Donna Karan International and the DKNY brand are currently owned by G-III Group. The company has suffered a share price drop and is now battling a social media storm calling on consumers to #BoycottDonnaKaran.

Consumers don’t care who owns the company. It carries her name and she is the figurehead of the brand - a designer who has dressed countless women in the sexy way in which she claims may be “asking for it”. A designer whose primary market is young women, looking for a label which represents female empowerment.

It beggars belief that someone who has spent so long in the public eye doesn’t have the savvy to keep herself out of a crisis like this.

No matter how righteous your intentions, scandals – particularly sexual ones - are to be avoided at all costs. Brand reputation can only be damaged by entering the fray.

If you can't give a socially acceptable comment, stay silent.


We are crisis communications specialists with services including media training and reputation management. Call us now on 0800 612 9890.