Lessons in Reputation Management From the Stars
Everyone likes to cut loose occasionally, but if you’re thinking of doing anything that your colleagues will likely refer to as “the incident,” you might want to think again. There was a time when indiscretions could remain safely buried, but the Internet and the rise of social media have changed all that. Many HR professionals and hiring managers search the web to gather intelligence on job candidates, leading to a new ritual among recent college graduates—the online profile clean-up.
You don’t want to go through what these celebs did.
Consider the case of Kristen Stewart, the brooding female lead of the “Twilight” franchise. While her legions of fans were busy arguing the merits of Team Edward and Team Jacob, Stewart chose to align her affections with producer Rupert Saunders—to the dismay of his wife, the public, and her boyfriend, co-star Robert Pattinson. No doubt, the affair hurt Stewart’s image, but in June 2012, the actress (or her PR people) was savvy enough to issue a public and heartfelt apology People.com reported that it acknowledged how her actions hurt both her fans and Pattinson. The statement seems to have done the trick. “Twilight: Breaking Dawn, Part II” had grossed $254.6 million within three weeks of its release.
The Lesson: Acknowledging your actions and a sincere apology can go a long way.
Photo of Kristen Stewart by Gage Skidmore via Flickr
In 1986, Tom Cruise was the dashing young actor whose work in “Top Gun” had everyone talking about the “need for speed.” In 2005, Cruise once again had everyone talking, this time about his disconcerting decision to jump on Oprah Winfrey’s couch and gush over new girlfriend Katie Holmes. Cruise has made serious PR mistakes since that time, and has never lived down his infamous Oprah moment among American audiences. Nonetheless, as The Hollywood Reporter pointed out, Cruise remains a strong box office draw for audiences outside the U.S. and is spending significant time promoting his films in Europe and Asia, resulting in combined worldwide receipts of $353 million for his last two releases.
The Lesson: Not everyone will forgive your mistakes. Concentrate on pleasing those who will.
Photo of Tom Cruise by ian_fromblightly via Flickr
If you’re looking to prove that a long history of producing quality work is no insurance against embarrassing, brutish behavior, you need only read a few accounts of Alec Baldwin’s 2011 temper tantrum when an American Airlines flight attendant reminded him that it was time to turn off his phone. He balked, and for his trouble, got thrown off the flight. He did issue a begrudging online apology on the Huffington Post, but as CNN pointed out, his real PR coup was lampooning the incident that very weekend on Saturday Night Live. Instead of refusing to acknowledge a story that made him look like a jerk, Baldwin actually took control of the situation and used the SNL skit to re-write the narrative.
The Lesson: It may not always be possible, but sometimes, the best way to deal with a potentially embarrassing incident is to take the opportunity to frame the story to your advantage.
Photo of Alec Baldwin by Vivanista1 via Flickr
If you haven’t “googled” yourself in a while, do it on a regular basis. If you’re an up-and-comer or small business owner and you want to monitor and push your negative reviews off Page 1 of search results, look into reputation management services. Some PR agencies provide online reputation management as an added service, and some enterprises have launched that do nothing but reputation management. Reputation.com, for example, helps businesses that have negative reviews and celebrities who have front-page embarrassments.