Crisis Communication: Katie Rich tweets ‘joke’ about 10-year-old Barron Trump

NBC is not having a good run with their on-air personalities. You would have imagined that a strongly worded email went around to staff in the aftermath of the Billy Bush fiasco, but if it did, Katie Rich wasn’t paying attention.

The 33-year-old is a writer for the network’s long-running comedy sketch show, Saturday Night Live. Rich is in the eye of a social media storm after a hugely distasteful tweet about Barron Trump, Donald Trump’s 10-year-old son.

Critics have expressed their disgust that Rich would mock a child, and said that there is nothing funny about cyber bulling and nothing funny about America’s school shootings.


As the uproar at the writer’s unfunny joke on social media grew, Rich deleted the tweet and switched her account to private, before deleting the account altogether some time later. This has done little to quell public anger at her, at the show and at the network, particularly since as of now, Rich has not issued any kind of apology.

Many twitter users are calling for a boycott on SNL unless Rich is fired, but so far there has been silence from the network on the matter.

Conservatives have attacked the hypocrisy of the liberal left, who often use Michelle Obama’s mantra “When they go low, you go high”, while many on the left have also tweeted support for Trump’s young son, saying children should never be the target of such ‘jokes’.

Mistakes NBC made in handling this social media crisis

  • They left it too late to respondTime is of the essence in dealing with a social media crisis. NBC should be well aware of how these things can spiral after Billy Bush’s involvement with Trump’s “Grab’em by the pussy” moment. As of now, it’s been more than 24 hours since the crisis broke, and NBC have not yet issued a statement. This is not good enough. Any apology or action that comes at this point will seem empty.
  • They let SNL keep tweetingEven as hundreds of tweets were coming in criticising the show and the network, demanding that Katie Rich be fired and suggesting a boycott of the show, @nbcsnl continued tweeting about Aziz Ansari’s appearance on the show as though nothing was happening. This gives the impression that they are either ignorant of or unconcerned with the public’s fury about the issue.

  • They don’t have the right training in place For an organisation that’s home to a lot of public figures, it doesn’t seem like NBC provides adequate training to their employees, and in particular their on-air personalities, on how to behave on the job and on social media. A mandatory, company-wide sensitivity training should be on the cards at this point.

What could NBC have done differently?

Well, they could have taken a leaf out of Skittle’s book, releasing a prompt statement distancing themselves from the tweet. They should have also promised to look into what happened, and follow up as necessary, like we outline in our article on creating holding statements for the media. They should definitely have a Crisis Response Protocol in place, and they should run simulations once a quarter to make sure that they’re prepared when the real thing happens.

So, have your say below – should Katie Rich lose her job?

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What if it happened at your company?

Would you be prepared? Do you have the right protocols in place?

Hit comment and let me know what kind of Crisis Response Protocol your team has in place for a crisis.

If your company doesn’t have any kind of plan for coping with a communications crisis,  you’re at risk of damaged reputation, decreased brand equity and revenue loss. Companies pay PR agencies THOUSANDS of dollars to prepare for such events.


Our fully customizable Emergency Response Communications Protocol is an easy to follow procedure that covers all bases for dealing with a crisis, and we’re making it available here for $99.

public-relations-katie-harringtonKatie Harrington is a Public Relations professional based in Galway, Ireland. Her book, Strategic Communications: The Science Behind the Art launched in November 2016. Katie has worked with global brands including Emirates Airline and Allianz, as well as the Irish parliament and Qatar’s semi-government oil and gas company Nakilat. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.



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