In teaching social media classes around Southwest Florida, one of the questions I’m asked most often is “How do I prevent embarrassing photos or postings about me?”
Two answers that will always protect your personal brand online:
1) Don’t DO stupid things.
2) Get smarter friends who won’t post embarrassing things about you.
Occasionally, people are going to suffer a public meltdown that will be amplified by a combination of media and internet. The funny thing about meltdowns is that they always attract attention, but can have very different implications. Your meltdown can make you:
A folk hero, like Steven Slater
The most hated man in America, like Tony Hayward
Earn laughs and exposure, like Jenny the HOPA
So, how do you get past your meltdown and restore your professional brand?
Issue a sincere apology.
If an apology is in order, issue one quickly and sincerely. BP executive, Tony Hayward, had more social gaffs and blunders than I can count. However, his issues went beyond just his misspoken words.
Research shows that 55% of a message is visual, or what the receiver sees. This includes facial expressions and body language. If you verbalize the words “I’m sorry” but you have a cold, emotionless demeanor, people are much less likely to believe you.
Certainly, Mr. Hayward was at a disadvantage considering his position. But, President Obama was also criticized for his lack of emotion during the Gulf Oil Spill Crisis. Even a positive message of reassurance can lose its meaning, if it is delivered in a cool, intellectual manor.
If you need to issue an apology, be conscious of what you are saying with your words, with your intonation as wells as your body language.
Laugh at yourself a little.
Have you seen Steven Slater in the news? If not, what rock are you hiding under?
After a confrontation with a passenger aboard a JetBlue flight, Steven Slater grabbed a beer and made quite the exit. Fortunately, no one was hurt in this incident – besides Slater’s bruised head.
While Slater isn’t quite sure how to handle all of the media attention, JetBlue has responded on their blog with, “It wouldn’t be fair for us to point out absurdities in other corners of the industry without acknowledging when it’s about us. ... While this episode may feed your inner Office Space, we just want to take this space to recognize our 2,300 fantastic, awesome and professional Inflight Crewmembers for delivering the JetBlue Experience you’ve come to expect of us.”
Humor lightens the tension and shows your human side. When appropriate, using humor can effectively diffuse the situation. By the way, JetBlue backed it up by providing passengers on the plane a $100 voucher, which also showed they cared about their passenger’s inconvenience.
Get back to being a professional.
This too shall pass… While Slater and Jenny have ruled the internet for a few days, their 15 minutes of fame will end and someone else will get at turn on the stage of life. If you have a public meltdown, the most important thing is to be resilient and keep going.
As you get back into your routine, producing high quality projects, people will remember you as the professional that you are.