Of course, there are some situations that are pretty hard to come back from. But if you’ve been hit by the wrath of the mob, and you’ve made an error, before you go give up and go into hibernation for all eternity, consider this. You just might be able to turn things around if you play your cards just right. Vice have come up with ‘the five stages of internet shaming’.
These are the standard steps that people tend to take when their online efforts have backfired. But every case should be treated individually.
There are a few different options here, each of which fits different scenarios. But our main piece of advice? Acknowledgment. The social jury hates it when people are oblivious to their crimes – it just fuels their rage.
If you’ve offended or upset people then you’ll also need to apologize sincerely. This is not the time to be making a joke of the whole thing, as you could just fuel the fire even more. Know the saying, ‘don’t poke the bear’? This applies to a Twitterstorm. You don’t want to go from a rainy day to a typhoon now, do you?
American author Jonah Lehrer made a catastrophic blunder which ruined his career. He published a book called ‘Imagine: How Creativity Works’, which contains fabricated quotes from Bob Dylan. Once his lies were unearthed, journalists everywhere were outraged and he was obliterated on Twitter.
Lehrer, as detailed in ‘So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed’ by Jon Ronson, had an epic apology fail when he dressed up his behavior as a psychological concept, rather than just accepting the blame. This only frustrated people further.
Minor mistakes or errors that can be laughed at may, to some extent, be able to be met with a lighthearted comment. Brands recognizing they’ve done wrong and not taking themselves too seriously can come out on top.
Jon Ronson’s book discusses a sex scandal involving Max Mosely, the former president of the FIA, and son of Sir Oswald Mosley, leader of the British Union of Fascists. Mosely felt he was able to come back from his scandal due to not being ashamed. Far from it. He actually ended up suing the paper in a privacy case, and won £60k.
Jon Ronson quotes Mosely in his book saying, "as soon as the victim steps out of the pact by refusing to feel ashamed, the whole thing crumbles." This tactic worked for him, but can it work for others?
What if you’re dealing with an overzealous or careless employee? Perhaps it’s time to give them some additional training, or consider changing your social media team. You want a responsive team who know the best course of action in a social media crisis. The key here is taking some sort of appropriate action, rather than allowing the storm to build without comment.
According to David Stoch, director of Meerkat PR, "Damage happens when there is a delay in coming clean and stating the remedy. Clean, swift and credible action can save brands from long-term PR damage. ‘Sorry’ means nothing, but timing and remedies do."