How to avoid a personal reputation crisis

We’ve all seen plenty of personal reputation crises play out on social media and other online outlets. From easyjet’s twitter blunder, to Roseanne Barr’s racist tweets about former President Obama’s aide Valerie Jarrett. And the fallout from Forever 21 sending diet bars with online orders of plus size clothing. To name just a few. Although the initial social media storm is short-lived, the impact that these events have can be far-reaching – both for the individual involved – and the businesses they represent. Canceling a network TV show is a huge fallout!

At their worst, these incidents will ruin an individual or business. But they can also result in an influx of #boycott hashtags, a ruined reputation, lost revenue and a lack of future opportunities for the future.  In this social media age, there is no escaping the backlash when it comes to a very public personal reputation crisis.

Prevention is always better than cure. But what steps should you take to avoid a personal reputation crisis in the first place? And what should you do if a social media scandal happens to you?

social media scandal

A social media scandal will stay around forever

Unfortunately, the adage of ‘what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas’ no longer exists. The Internet is a permanent place. And even after years and years of the Internet, some will still forget that hitting that post, share or like button will mean it is there forever.

Shane Gills from Saturday Night Live has been fired from his role as a cast member because old videos have surfaced of him making racist slurs. Realizing your mistake and deleting the post quickly won’t always save you, as some followers may have taken a screenshot and shared it anyway.

Here are some top tips for how to avoid a personal crisis:

  1. Risk assess your own online content

Ask yourself, whenever you post something. “Will this impact me in five years’ time?” Start by going through your Instagram and Twitter feed, as well as your Facebook timeline, and any other social media platforms you use. And don’t forget to include blogs, guest publications or anything where you might appear online.

If you find any problems, start cleaning up your digital past. We now live in a world where people will actively dig for negative posts.

2. Check your language 

Using foul language is fine if that is your tone of voice and is part of your personal brand. But if you’re associated with another, or are a representative for a company, or might have the opportunity to work with another brand in the future, it’s not a good idea.

Every business or brand tends to keep their language PG and will only work with an individual or brand that won’t impact directly on those brand values. There are some really great brands who use swearing well (Dollar Shave Club and Thug Kitchen, I’m looking at you), but in the interests of avoiding a personal brand crisis, let’s just stay away from swearing.

  1. Ask yourself “What would my mother say if she read this?”

It’s always a practical way to approach anything on social media with caution. Unless your personal brand is to be outrageous, if you’re wanting to post something that might be slightly risky, consider how something you write online would be seen by your nearest and dearest.

If ‘Aunt Susan’ wouldn’t appreciate the meme, joke, comment about a competitor, then there is always a good chance that your fans, clients, stakeholders or customers wouldn’t like it either. It’s nice to be nice.

  1. Stay away from politics

Unless you’re involved in politics directly, it’s just better to avoid commenting. You can easily offend followers who will never share the same opinions as you. As always, there are exceptions to the rule, anything that supports equality – such as LGBTQ rights, or movements like #MeToo or Black Lives Matter – are always seen as favorable on social media – when genuine. Ethics matter.

  1. Be prepared

A personal reputation crisis can strike without warning. So, having a solid personal reputation management crisis plan in place is important. Knowing who you will work with if something happens can make all the difference. Research shows that a quarter of crises spread to international media within an hour whilst companies take an average of 21 hours to respond.

personal reputation crisis


No one is immune from a social media scandal, whether it is something in your business or personal life, the most important thing is to ACT – Assess. Control. Transform.

  1. Assess the damage. Use to capture sentiment, data and monitor the damage so you can leverage the insights to strategize.
  2. Think about how much control you have over which channels and what you can do to influence each one. Create a plan of action to put you back in Control.
  3. A well-thought-out strategy will fix and Transform your reputation online. Time to start planning what you need to do.

When a personal reputation crisis hits it can be devastating and unfair. Your hard-earned reputation matters to you, and it matters to us too. You’ll need an immediate short-term plan to deal with it, and a long-term strategy to rebuild your reputation.

Our team of experienced professionals are passionate about fighting your corner and bring the expertise, tenacity, and tactics you need to get you through it, mitigate further risks and build a new online narrative.

If you are in a personal reputation crisis, contact our experts today to find out how we can help you.

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