Ah, celebrities. Why do we love to hate them? If you’re like me, you take guilty peeks into the latest People magazine (Celebrities! They’re just like us!) while standing in line at the grocery store. And sometimes those magazines fall onto the conveyor belt for purchase. No? Well, me neither. And I absolutely do not have the full Bachelor issue sitting on my coffee table right now.
Perhaps their propensity to fail publicly is what draws us to celebrity culture. Maybe it makes us feel better about ourselves to see people so gorgeous and talented have bad hair days or pose for the most cringe-inducing mugshot of all time. These are all theories, of course. Not a reflection of how I feel. Then again, there has to be a reason you can mark stories as “FAIL” on Buzzfeed.
Celebrities were among the first to turn us on to the idea of reputation management companies, which can delete embarrassing strings of Facebook photos or a delectable morsel of gossip you don’t want creeping into public consumption. Companies are turning to reputation management firms, as well, and rightfully so: a string of negative reviews can affect a business’ reputation, online and off. If you haven’t invested in one already, consider these celebrity stories as a cautionary tale (or success story!), and get to searching.
Oh, the Biebs. Infectious agent of Bieber Fever, affliction of many a prepubescent teen, and likely Guinness World Record Holder for use of the word “baby” in a three-minute span. With the swirling negative headlines, it’s easy to forget that Justin Bieber isn’t much more than a baby, too. So what are we to learn from this teenager’s mistakes?
1. Step Back
When you’re facing a public outcry, take a step out of the limelight for a while. Don’t make a bad decision worse by acting contrarian, fighting back, or refusing to change behavior at all.
2. Change the Discussion
You’re likely familiar with the phrase “kill ‘em with kindness,” and that’s a lesson Bieber should be taking to heart. Commit to a charity, get better friends, or establish a foundation. Do enough to change the direction of the conversation from bad to good.
The Takeaway: If you’ve committed a customer service faux pas, you can’t afford to dig your heels in the sand. Make it better by doing something nice for your customer base.
LaBeouf really seemed destined to become Hollywood’s next golden child. After starring in mega franchises Transformers and Indiana Jones, his reputation as a good boy A-Lister was all but set in stone. But then things got a little… weird. He’s been arrested multiple times for public intoxication and is commonly out and about in duds he seems to have plucked out of the nearest hipster’s dirty clothes hamper. He recently made headlines for his #ALLMYMOVIES “art piece,” where he sat in a movie theater for three days and watched all of his own films. Oh, and he also loves sporting a rat tail.
The Takeaway: We’re not really sure if LaBeouf is someone we should be emulating or rejecting. The inherent lesson here is to stay true to your brand. Might he have been better off remaining Hollywood’s golden boy? Probably. But he seems to be attracting a lot of attention with his new devil-may-care persona. Our biggest confusion is which version of him is actually authentic. So our advice is to pick a culture for your brand, and stick with it.
Much like Donald Trump, there’s no middle ground with the Kim/Kanye mix up: you either love them or you hate them. Either way, you’re accosted by Kimye headlines at every turn – she wore this, he said that. What do these two individuals, seemingly incapable of smiling, have in common? They’re masters at attracting followers using the notion of exclusivity.
Kim, for example, posts “sneak peek” posts on Instagram of her photo shoots and leaves fans clamoring to tell their friends about it. Kanye launched a clothing line of questionable taste (let’s just call it LaBeouf-chic) that sold out in hours. They (or more likely, their reputation managers) know that giving little tidbits will leave their fan base begging for more.
The Takeaway: A “VIP” club is a fantastic way for customers to stay engaged with and excited about your brand. But if you’re in the clothing industry, I wouldn’t try Kanye’s method of charging $350 for a sleeveless shirt.
The impressively muscled, gruff star of the Fast and Furious franchise has become a social media darling in recent years. His approach is simple: authenticity. He posts mostly about his family and even throws in the occasional selfie video of singing or dancing. With 93 million followers, he’s doing something right.
The Takeaway: We’re past the age of faceless corporations. Consumers crave transparency and authenticity from the businesses they patronize. Reward that curiosity every once in a while by giving your customer base unfettered access to (certain aspects) of your company’s day-to-day operations. If you’re a food enterprise, for example, consider making where you get your ingredients sourced public.
Reputation management is something every company can benefit from. If we’ve learned something from these celebrities, it’s that how you handle yourself publicly can make or break your career. Have we convinced you to reconsider your reputation strategy yet?