How Not To Handle A PR Crisis: Learning From The Recent Secret Service Scandal Heard Round The World

In a world where we are constantly speaking our minds, social media has made keeping up with public relations more challenging than ever before. Now, people who would not normally speak up so vocally or negatively for that matter, can do so in a safe space where anonymity turns cowards into jolly green giants. In fact, often times we do not need to do anything in particular to garner negative attention. Trolls are consistently looking for new targets, discovering new ways, new people and new brands to latch on to. Public recognition often triples your chances of being in the spotlight.

Reputation Protection and Slander

While there are currently not enough laws in effect to combat the very serious reputation damage and emotional stress that trolls and online stalkers cause, steps are being taken behind the scenes every day to find effective ways to hold trolls and stalkers accountable for their actions. However, this does not change the state of the internet now. Without much help in getting justice, we are often left to not only figure out how to handle these online situations properly… but also how to rebuild our reputations when we are consistently being slandered.

Corporate PR Professor Makes a Reputation Management Mistake

In recent news, a NYU professor learned this lesson all too well. When she was mistakenly identified as a woman of the same name in a Secret Service scandal, she wrestled with what to do about it. A well-meaning journalist mistook her for another woman of the same name who had made Facebook comments about her refusal to protect President Trump if his life was in danger while she was on the job.

Needless to say, the Secret Service takes those kinds of statements very seriously when an agent’s job is essentially taking the president’s life in their own hands. The problem is that Professor O’Grady was not that woman. She was just a PR professor welcoming a new year of greenhorn students who were eager to Google her and find out more about their teacher. O’Grady was quick to correct the media publicly about their mistake.

As people began to Tweet terrible, hateful messages on O’Grady’s social feeds, she began her attempt to divert attention away with a lighthearted tweet. However, as time went on, she became fearful of any of her personal information getting into the wrong hands. This fear prompted her to make a very knee-jerk reaction. Not only had she already addressed this very publicly, she started a hashtag campaign to alert people to the misinformation about her in the media. She then began blocking people who sent negative messages. Next, she spoke to countless news outlets.

The problem wasn’t in trying to fix her reputation per say. The problem was in the overkill and how she went about it. To name just one issue with this approach, SEO experts will quickly tell you that the more your name is mentioned across the web, the more chances you have of finding yourself on Google’s front pages. The truth is that people rarely scroll past the first 3 pages anyway… most never make it past page one. Now there will be endless search results about this debacle that will likely not die out anytime soon. Tens of thousands of results now exist thanks to this issue being megaphoned around the web.

How Does This Pertain to My Business?

Many CSR contact forms are dying out. These days you can get a quicker response on a company’s social account and you may have already implemented this change in your own business. Make a fuss, and the squeaky wheel gets the grease. It is very easy to make knee-jerk decisions in the heat of the moment. It is simply human nature and self-perseveration. For instance, if someone said, “_________ is a terrible company. I heard the owner make awful remarks about __________. I am so offended. I will never go back!” If you were the owner and knew this to be highly untrue, you would want to protect yourself. You would probably be pretty emotional at first.

We have gotten to a place in the world though where not only are we all highly social online, we are all also well aware of trolls. They are easy to spot by their relentless negative posts. If you give them enough rope, well, you know how the old saying goes.

The adage of “Don’t feed the trolls” goes a long way. If you feel you need to respond, always do so kindly. Then, let it die off. Continuing to run the point into the ground only serves to draw more attention, especially if you are acting on pure emotion. A snappy remark gives some validity to the notion that maybe you aren’t the nicest owner in the world. Even though you know that is not true. It makes the troll’s story more believable and it sends your likability plummeting.

What to Do When You are at the Center of Controversy

The best thing you can do in the midst of controversy is to create good press. Continue to be your brand. Continue to be the good people that you are. People react positively to positivity. If you must address the situation, address it once. Then move one and detach from the situation. Don’t kick a dead horse. There will always be biased media organizations, trolls, and haters. Don’t fire them up and create a bigger storm as you must come to realize that it will pass over and with a strong online reputation management offense and defense combined with Profile Defenders removal services (specific sites only) you can repair the damage and not let the whole world know as pro

We live in the age of information and at least once in every company’s lifetime, controversy, real or made-up, will arise. The key is being ready when it does, not reacting with emotion and thinking with a clear head. When you lose your cool, freak out over rumors or obsess over the issue, you feed the trolls.

As you go on about your week, the story of Professor O’Grady is a great example of the challenges we face in reputation management today. Though this instance may make O’Grady more popular with her social savvy students, if she wasn’t a person and was a brand instead, this move could have been incredibly detrimental to how her company would be viewed for years to come. So, do yourself and your good name a favor. Keep it simple and remember that what we learned in kindergarten still applies, “Stick and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” (Well, unless of course, I draw attention to them with a fireworks show.)

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