How To Avoid Cancel Culture: The Entertainment Industry’s Guide To Dealing With A Social Media Crisis

The entertainment industry is one of the biggest and most diverse businesses in the world. With an international audience and the emergence of social media in the past decade, issues are bound to arise. A social media crisis is any social media activity that potentially hurts a brand or business’s reputation. This means it goes beyond a simple customer complaint or a negative opinion. In early 2020, actress Vanessa Hudgens made a highly insensitive and out-of-touch comment about the Coronavirus pandemic that perfectly highlights the need for guidelines.

To ensure that companies and individuals in the entertainment business are prepared for social media crises there are some fundamental steps to consider.

Firstly, know your audience. Social media encompasses some of the most powerful platforms that allow you to be in touch with everyone around the world. People and companies in the entertainment industry are lucky enough to garner levels of fame that allow them larger online audiences than the average user. In Hudgens’ case, she is one of the most-followed people on Instagram with over 40 million followers. Knowing your audience is a great preemptive way to avoid a social media crisis; if you know the types of people who follow you (age, nationality, gender identity, etc), you can look at your content through their lens to consider if it’s post-worthy.

Under the same umbrella as knowing your audience, is thinking before posting. Especially when dealing with leaked information or media rumors, consider if it’s important as a company to even respond to these issues on social.

Additionally, consider the impact of a post or release before doing it. Humans are unpredictable so it’s almost impossible to know how things will be received after they’re posted online. But dedicating a few team members to think through each angle of how something will be perceived is important and could curb a potential social media crisis.

However, sometimes things slip through the cracks and social media crises happen. There are a few things to do to help mitigate the issue and restore your reputation.

  • Acknowledge the issue: one of the worst things to do is to pretend it didn’t happen or hope it squashes itself. Fans and followers are expecting an explanation; let it be directly from the source so there are no further misunderstandings. It’s also important to respond on the platform the issue started on.
  • Hug your haters: naturally, you’ll be dealing with people who are upset or annoyed. This rule recommends responding or apologizing online/publically twice. This shows people following the issue that you or the brand are attempting to engage and admit fault but also know when to walk away. It’s incredibly important to publically respond instead of hiding behind a PR team but being too combative could cause another crisis in and of itself.
  • Show action: actions speak louder than words. People want to see that you’ve actually learned a lesson. This is one of the best ways to slowly rebuild your reputation in an authentic way. In Hudgens’ case, she publically shared information about the COVID-19 pandemic to indicate she was learning the severity of the health crisis she made light of.

Social media can be treacherous. In an industry that thrives off of social media and being connected to the world, it’s important that companies and celebrities know their audience, consider posts beforehand and respond sympathetically but professionally as to not permanently damage their reputations. Cancel culture can await anyone who doesn’t deal with a social media crisis in a timely and proper manner.

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