Last month, comedian Kathy Griffin crossed a line from which may prove difficult, if not impossible, to reverse course.
Griffin's depiction of her having 'beheaded' President Donald Trump sparked an immediate and furious backlash. Although she took the post down and issued an apology, it wasn't enough to salvage her professional prospects, including a plum contributor role at CNN.
The photo also cost her an endorsement deal, as well as the seven remaining dates on her current stand-up tour, all of which were cancelled by the respective venues.
With her raunchy jokes about taboo subjects, Griffin has made a decades-long career out of crossing the line, and is certainly no stranger to controversy. However, the current firestorm seems different, something even Griffin herself acknowledged in a June press conference. "I don't think I'll have a career after this," she said at the time.
Given the immediate negative reaction she experienced, her anxieties appear justified. Is there anything she can do to get back in the public's good graces, or is it time for her to start considering a career change?
Griffin's representatives did not respond to inquiries seeking comment, but CNBC recently spoke to public relations experts to ask where the comedian might go from here—if anywhere.
"I'd have to say, at this point, she'll never recover," said public relations specialist John L. Goodman. "Her career is toast, and I don't see how, even over time, she will ever regain what she had."
PR strategist Julia Angelen Joy agreed, explaining to CNBC that Griffin compounded the crisis by calling a press conference in which she painted herself as a victim.
"I do not agree with her approach to go on the offensive, and her press conference was a disaster," Joy said. "Even if there was some blame to share with others, this is all on her right now."
However, Joy told CNBC that if Griffin is truly sincere about fixing her self-created mess, the comedian should follow what Joy called "The 4 R's:" Regret, resolve, reform and restitution.
In other words, Griffin must show regret by apologizing, multiple times if necessary; she must show that she is working to resolve the issue, perhaps by reaching out to the president personally. She should also demonstrate that she's changing—a tricky task given that people are likely to be skeptical of her motives. Finally, Griffin should show that she's making amends in a meaningful way, which may be even tricky.
"Staying humble and grounded in the public eye, taking the beating and responding with regret, is how individuals show restitution," Joy said.
Rafe Gomez, owner of VC Marketing public relations firm, said that Griffin should own her mistake, but do it in a way that relies on her strengths as an acerbic comedian.
"Quickly write, produce, and self-publish an audiobook filled with lots of dish about her experience," he said. "Possible title, 'How to Commit Career Suicide in 24 Hours (and Come Back from the Dead)'."
Yet Steven Kent, public relations manager at the Young Voices media organization, disagreed with the notion that Griffin should show any signs of regret. To do so, he said, would be to fundamentally misread the moment in which we live.
"We live in an area of hyper-polarization and playing to your base," he said. "It's an unfortunate reality, but success in modern media is more about building notoriety in your own bubble than reaching out across those lines."
David Rae, a Los Angeles financial planner who once appeared on Griffin's former television show, "My Life on the D List," said that Griffin should not only refuse to show any further contrition, but should lean hard on her very loyal (and largely gay) following to get her through.
In other words, she should act more like the president she offended.
"Kathy should take a lesson from Donald Trump's playbook and pander to her fan base," Rae told CNBC. "June is Pride month, and I doubt many in the LGBT community are going change their opinion of Kathy Griffin based on this image… If anything, this will strengthen the bond between Kathy Griffin" and her biggest boosters, he added.