“Reputation rehab” is an expression used in Hollywood to describe an attempt to control the public perception of a misbehaving celebrity by sending them to a rehabilitation center for the PR value alone. These attempts at rehabilitation are typically short lived, and provide little substance for the celebrity to make lasting and real changes in their life.
Like a car accident with rubberneckers slowing down to look, a celebrity’s downfall usually becomes a public event, with everyone feeling entitled to know what's going on. Today, social media deepens the impact of a ruined reputation, netting countless onlookers and attackers.
Instead of using rehab as a publicity stunt, you can legitimately put your brand reputation itself into rehab. There are measures you can take to prevent damage to your online reputation, but, if it’s too late for prevention, here are the twelve steps to rehabilitating your reputation.
1. Acknowledge. As with all programs, the first step is admitting you have a problem.
2. Move quickly to assess the situation and damage. You cannot properly respond to a reputation crisis if you do not understand the depth of the issue.
3. Act as if, eventually, all truth will be known. You may have gotten away with certain actions or poor behaviors in the past, but do not continue to assume you will get away with them again.
4. Control your emotions. When your personal emotions begin to swell, you must conquer them and think strategically.
5. Keep your focus directed toward social media. You may be tempted to withdraw from social networks, but keep yourself and your brand involved.
6. Determine the correct message and medium of response. If a Tweet was the cause of controversy or upset, use Twitter as your first avenue of response.
7. Never make a public denial. Accept responsibility and present an acknowledged apology.
8. Be original. Each crisis is different, never copy the responses of others.
9. Use the opportunity to reset the moral compass of your brand. This is a perfect opportunity to restructure old ways of thinking in how you communicate with the public.
10. Redirect focus. Present your accomplishments, past and present, to the public.
11. Establish lasting, game-changing solutions. Develop strategies, or hire brand management companies to assist in future crisis’ and implement procedures for daily interactions on social networking sites.
12. Move forward. Don’t dwell in the past, otherwise the public's attention and your reputation will remain in the past as well.