30 second summary:
- Social media platforms allow anyone to publicly call people and brands when they have done or said something offensive or offensive
- Cancellation culture is public outrage that targets a single celebrity or brand for their public statements or actions
- How do you protect your brand from deletion in 2022 and beyond?
- If you’ve been impressed by the culture of cancellation, how can you control the damage and recover your brand image? Let’s find out!
In 2021, big celebrities and brands such as JK Rowling, Ellen DeGeneres, Netflix, L’Oréal and McAfee faced the wrath of netizens because of their actions, intentional or unintentional: this was the culture of full-throttle cancellation. People want to hold brands and celebrities accountable (at least for the most part), and marketers need to recognize that it’s here to stay.
According to PEW research, 58% of US adults generally say that calling others on social media is more likely to respond to people. While there are various nuances to clearing the culture, I immerse myself in understanding the core of this phenomenon and what brands need to do to safeguard their online reputation and identity.
Source: PEW Research Center
What is the “culture of cancellation”?
Cancel culture is the contemporary movement to express public disapproval of someone’s public statement or action.
When canceling refers to a brand, people are basically encouraging the public to stop buying from them. To cancel means to boycott a brand.
Of course, social media provides a perfect platform for the culture of cancellation, giving everyone a voice and the means to unite people around a common outrage.
The idea of the culture of cancellation is controversial.
On the one hand, it raises a lot of legal issues. Public shame goes back to the concept of street trials when an individual could have been punished without his guilt being proven.
On the other hand, the culture of annulment is considered an important tool for achieving social justice.
How to protect your brand?
1. Develop strict communication policies
Anyone who can speak publicly or post content on your behalf should follow strict rules on what they can or can’t say, what topics to avoid, who to warn about public feedback, etc.
This document is called a communication policy.
It is helpful for company executives to follow that document as well because in many cases the CEOs cause all the problems.
For example, the American University has a very detailed marketing and communications policy which lists all kinds of rules employees must follow when sending newsletters via email, posting on social media channels and using third party content, such as images and videos.
Here are their communication guidelines for posting on social media – this will give you an example of what your brand’s communication policy can look like.
Think twice before posting: Privacy does not exist in the world of social media. Consider what might happen if a post becomes widely known and how it might be reflected on both the poster and the University … If you’re unsure about posting something or responding to a comment, ask your supervisor for input.
- Strive for accuracy: Get the facts directly before posting them on social media.
- Be respectful: Understand that content provided to a social media site can encourage commentary or discussion of opposing ideas.
- On personal sites: identify your opinions as yours.
Photography and comments: Do not post comments or images involving an AU employee, volunteer, or student without their explicit consent.
A communication policy is not something you can build in one day. It should address different scenarios, provide policies for different channels and explain clear steps on:
Set your policy as internal e searchable knowledge base to be able to expand it as you discover new and new situations and processes.
2. Avoid controversy (if you can)
As a founder and member of the company, you may be tempted to use your public image and following to support what you feel is right and fair.
It may come at a high cost, so think twice before doing it.
Your public words could end up going against your brand and causing a crisis that your team may not be prepared to handle.
If in doubt, shut up.
Still, it is becoming increasingly difficult to remain neutral
In today’s polarized world, customers often demand that their brands take a stand and publicly define their position. We saw it happen before our very eyes when Coca-Cola and McDonald’s were both forced out of the Russian market after what seemed like a silent hesitation.
In many cases, silence is not an option. Nowadays, staying neutral means being complicit and not many brands can afford it.
When faced with the need to react to a political climate, consider taking action rather than making a statement. A report states that customers tend to forgive more brands that took action instead of trying to please their audience with empty talk.
In other words, instead of condemning any party, start a fundraiser or donate money to the cause you are supporting. At this point, whatever you say may backfire, but at least the action will be respected.
3. Admit and admit your mistakes
While the culture of cancellation may seem truly scary, we see many examples of brands recovering from any crisis simply by apologizing.
If your company is facing public outrage
Set up a meeting with your employees and discuss whether you may have been wrongly accused in your previous statement and what is the best way to deal with the allegations.
If you feel you have done nothing wrong, your PR, communications and legal teams may have a different opinion, so listen to them.
If your case looks bad enough and the charges are mounting rapidly, consider hiring a crisis manager. In some cases, an external perspective is needed.
4. Invest in a sub-brand
We’ve been giving the same advice for years: don’t create multiple brands. Focus on one.
Well, the last few years of an immediate cancellation threat for possible clumsy public backlash have clearly demonstrated one thing: your (personal) brand could be ruined in one day.
Of course, most brands can be restored with enough reputation management efforts, but it can take months for the public to forgive mistakes and be fair again.
In this climate, having another brand to lean on in the event of a possible reputation crisis seems like a good idea.
We have seen many examples of a new brand saving a company
To name a few, we’ve seen Rowling tackle another pen name to keep writing and McAfee changes its name to Intel Security to alienate the company from its founder. There are numerous others Case studies proving a definitive point: You may have invested your life in building a strong brand, but it remains vulnerable, especially now that your brand deletion could go viral.
Even if you are a small business or independent entrepreneur, consider create an anonymous digital entity in advance to start building yours organic visibility. If something happens to your core brand, you’ll have a backup to focus your attention on.
In the worst case, your sub-brand will never be used, but you will be able to use the site’s rankings to increase sales and leads.
5. Prioritizing privacy and data security is a must
Privacy and security remain the greatest threat to the well-being of any brand. Even giants like Google Plus were forced to shut down after their data leak went public.
Cyber attacks can cause your customers to lose money and identity, which is very difficult to overcome. It is particularly dangerous in B2B marketing because it often involves working with a lot of sensitive data.
Create a healthy culture of safety within your company so that all your employees are aware of data security protocols and protect private customer data.
We live in interesting times where everyone has a say and are still learning to live in a world where any topic can go public and go viral. It’s both scary and thrilling to navigate these unknown waters, but the good old “hope for the best, prepare for the worst” is almost always a good strategy. Good luck!
Ann Smarty is the founder of Viral Content Bee, Brand and Community manager of Internet Marketing Ninjas. It can be found on Twitter @seosmarty.
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