Managing your Reputation as a Public Figure

Managing your reputation as a public figure in a time of crisis can save your whole career. We know the story of Maryam Booth. A disgruntled ex-boyfriend supposedly tries to extort the girl by threatening to release naked videos of her. Girl refuses and then he supposedly goes ahead. It is even worse when the girl is a household name and even more terrible when she’s an actor from the conservative northern part of Nigeria.

 

To put the gravity of what happened to her into context, fellow Nigerian actor, Rahama Sadau was kicked out of the northern Nigeria movie industry (Kannywood) for holding hands with a man in a music video. Fortunately for Maryam, she won’t be banned from the industry because this was deliberately done to blackmail her. But her public image has taken a huge hit even if we do know this was done to harm her. She is simply a victim of blackmail. However, Maryam still has the responsibility of managing this crisis the best way she can.

 

The easy way to manage a reputation crisis is to manipulate Google Algorithms so positive news about the person shows first. Then push a lot of spin articles to change public perception. But this is short-term and no more than a quick fix. If you are looking for a long-term solution, here are a few ideas on managing your reputation as a public figure in a time of a crisis:

  1. Be Realistic about Goals: First thing you need to do is to access the situation you are in and be truthful with yourself about the damage done to your reputation. This is no time to brush it under the carpet and say, “it’s not so big a deal.” If you are not truthful about the damage this crisis has caused, you will not be able to set attainable goals in your crisis management. Is your situation so bad you might not work again in your industry like Rahama Sadau, or is it safe to continue posting on Social Media? The point is, you need to understand the extent of the damage, who is affected and then set your crisis management goals.
  2. Note the level of Damage: A simple Google search of your name can give you an idea of how bad this damage is. In Nigeria especially, there are many blogs that feed on negative news and will pounce on anything terrible about you. But note that it is not the number of blogs that carry the news that matter, but the quality of the blog. For instance, a Linda Ikeji is a bigger damage than a hundred small blogs! The evaluation of the situation then gives you a baseline as you plan to take action.
  3. Control your Emotions: It will be an emotional time for you, and unchecked emotions can lead you to make even bigger mistakes. Sometimes emotions can lead you to lie which will only make things worse when the truth comes out. Sometimes emotions can lead you to attack random people on Social Media which only makes you look unhinged. Every online comment or phone call from a relative increases your vulnerability. Truth is, acting out of emotions will only make things worse. If you are in a situation where you need to offer a public apology and you end up attacking people commenting on your situation early on, it makes your apology less sincere. Stay off Social Media for a while, do not take calls (Everyone would have an opinion on how to handle the crisis and a barrage of opinions will only make you more unsettled), and talk to an expert on the next step to take.
  4. Plan your strategy with the Media: Communication with the media, Traditional or Online requires finesse. When the emotions are running high, it might not be a good idea to make a statement immediately, no matter how tempting it is to. You need to decide when to make a public statement and how to make that statement in order to shape public opinion in your favour.
  5. Watch Social Media: Social Media can be an eco-chamber and not really reflect what the world feels about you. But you can use it as a meter to measure how you can respond to the situation. One thing you should never do is get into a social media exchange. Let’s say you have been accused of sexual abuse, people will get angry and they will vent online. Sometimes, many of them are not angry, many of them don’t care! They just join the bandwagon to get on the clicks and the retweets. Engaging them is like digging a hole deeper, it will be harder to get out of the mess. Measure the reaction on social media, do more work away from social media to clear your name (Sue! People feel you will sue if you are not guilty), and then address the media when the dust has settled. Play to their emotions and focus on how this crisis has affected your life and career.
  6. Consider the Difficult Options: Sometimes, suing is not the best option. Imagine you are suing someone with political clout or unlimited resources? Even if you are in the right, it might still turn out bad for you. Going to court keeps the story in the public eye and may not be in your overall best interest. Sometimes, the difficult options might even include decisions like a change of name, career or location.
  7. Seek Help: If you know you cannot handle this on your own, seek help. Fortunately, TRW Consult offers Reputation Management services with an impeccable record of satisfied high-profile clients. We will access your situation and advise on the best steps to take that will ensure you win in the court of public opinion.

 

Samuel Ejedegba