Jennifer Lawrence had a rough week in December 2016.
The Hunger Games star caught flack recently for a story she told on the Graham Norton Show back in 2012. In a clip that recently went viral, Lawrence discussed a shoot in which she sat atop stones at a sacred Hawaiian site. Her situation provides some key lessons in reputation management.
After mentioning that one isn’t allowed to sit on the stones, she laughed about scratching her butt on one of them, which caused a rock to dislodge and destroy sound equipment. Lawrence finished the story by joking about the natives’ belief that her transgression had brought upon a curse.
Lawrence’s story seemed to be a hit with the show’s audience, but many on the internet were not pleased with the remarks, calling her actions—and boastful nonchalance in recounting them—deeply insensitive. While Lawrence claimed to have been unaware of the stones’ sacred significance at the time of the shoot, she showed no remorse in telling the story after the fact. After Lawrence issued an apology on her Facebook page, criticisms continued pouring in.
The Three Rules of Apologizing on Social Media
In an effort for reputation management following a social media scandal, the way you respond can either be your saving grace or lead audiences double down on their negative view. There are three big rules when it comes to responding or apologizing to an audience’s concerns:
- Listen to what your audience has to say.
- Be human in your response to criticism.
- Explain how you’ll ensure it won’t happen again.
Many took issue with Lawrence’s apology because it didn’t actually respond to their criticisms. Addressing her apology to “the internet” rather than native Hawaiians is the obvious example of this. Second, she apologized for the average user taking offense, rather than apologizing for her actions that’d been called out: desecrating a sacred site.
If your apology is tone deaf or noncommittal to critics, there’s little reason to give one at all. Audiences can read through the PR-speak and tell when someone isn’t being sincere. Therefore, it’s essential you take your audience’s concerns with care and respond faithfully.
Finally, you can turn a bad situation into a good one by taking the time to educate yourself or your audience, perhaps spotlighting organizations or charities related to the situation. In Lawrence’s case, she could have discussed in detail how who she is today differs from who she was four years ago. She also could have mentioned an organization such as the Ko’olau Foundation, which maintains the preservation of sacred sites like the one she desecrated.
If you’re a larger brand exercising damage control, it’s also a good idea to listen and monitor discussion around your brand to respond directly to individuals’ concerns.
A Social Media Misstep Doesn’t Deserve Abuse
In a firestorm, you may find your profiles flooded and overwhelmed with angry comments and critics. It’s a bad idea to stifle criticism—censoring only makes things worse—but that doesn’t mean you should disregard abusive comments hurled at you or your brand. Criticism is valid; abusive, harmful remarks are not. In fact, cutting out such harmful comments allows you to seek and respond to genuine engagement—even the negative comments—faster and easier.
Unfortunately, comment moderation tools native to social media platforms don’t often work in real time. They’re also easy to bypass using spelling variations and untraditional spacing. Smart Moderation, though, is different: powered by machine learning, it’s a powerful AI that can moderate comments on your profiles in real time, erasing spam, abusive comments and profanity within the minute that it’s posted.
It can be difficult to set things right amidst a flurry of criticism online, but real time automated comment moderation can help streamline your response to engagement—therefore quickening your damage control efforts as you monitor your community and devise a statement. Before you’re in hot water, try Smart Moderation out for free, and consider implementing a proactive social media disaster plan!