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Spotify’s relationship with Joe Rogan has once again come under fire after musicians Neil Young and Joni Mitchell requested the streaming platform to remove his music over Rogan’s comments on COVID-19 vaccines.

Spotify CEO Daniel Ek and Rogan both issued responses on Sunday, pledging to learn, grow and evolve from this incident. But one could argue that the damage to Spotify’s brand has already been done. The story was so sensational that when looking at the 140,000+ news stories written about Spotify over the last year, this event alone accounted for 51% of the total engagements.


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This criticism from external stakeholders comes a year after Spotify employees expressed their concerns in a company-wide town hall about Rogan’s comments on transgender issues. We analyzed CEO Daniel Ek’s response and praised him for remaining consistent with the company’s core values.


The story continues to raise plenty of moral questions around freedom of speech, de-platforming, and censorship. And after seeing similar cases emerge around Spotify and other publishing and streaming platforms, we can’t emphasize enough the need to prepare for what is likely inevitable. This growing issue should be near the top of a vulnerability list for any platform or publisher. And since we live in a world where speed is favored over accuracy, companies can lose the narrative in a matter of hours. The best solution we have found is a ready-made playbook that outlines how your organization should deal with a specific vulnerability. Think of it as an emergency action plan that can help your company be and feel more prepared when crisis arises. Additionally, you can test and prove the value of the action plan by running a simulation with your team and make any necessary adjustments.

These playbooks should include:

  • A net impact statement

  • Key messages

  • A list of relevant stakeholders

  • Standby statements

  • Q&A document

Criticism is inevitable these days. But how a company responds (or doesn’t respond) can have a lasting reputational impact on the brand.  In addition to contributing greatly to readiness and response, perhaps the single most important benefit of these “playbooks” is to align senior leadership culturally on the response.

The hours or even days saved by doing this in advance can be the difference in success or failure in a crisis.