David Cameron’s allegation that Jimmy Carr was tax dodging put the comedian into crisis mode last Friday. Five years ago there would have been a press release and possibly a brief statement given to a carefully chosen news channel. It can’t have escaped your notice that Jimmy Carr put his statement out on Twitter, even though it took five tweets to get the full apology out.
“I appreciate as a comedian, people will expect me to ‘make light’ of this situation, but I’m not going to in this statement, as this is obviously a serious matter. I met with a financial advisor and he said to me “Do you want to pay less tax? It’s totally legal.” I said “Yes.” I now realise I’ve made a terrible error of judgement. Although I’ve been advised the K2 Tax scheme is entirely legal, and has been fully disclosed to HMRC (Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs), I’m no longer involved in it and will in future conduct my financial affairs much more responsibly. Apologies to everyone. Jimmy Carr.”
Although Carr hasn’t emerged entirely unscathed it is broadly agreed that he did a good job of defusing the story. So why Twitter? He has over two million followers, that’s more than the circulation of any newspaper. He was able to decide the timing of the announcement and he could ensure it was free from comment or selective editing. So if celebrities are side-stepping the press then they don’t need PR people either? Not so. Carr sought the help of his trusted advisor entertainment PR guru Gary Farrow on the handling of the apology.
Not every celebrity has a multi million follower list and certainly few corporate accounts can boast that sort of number, but if you are at the centre of a media storm is doesn’t matter whether you have 200 or two million, people will be watching and Twitter provides a faster, more effective route than the press release.