Big-name companies like Balenciaga and Heineken have been facing boycott threats for their views on social issues, while Facebook and YouTube have received criticism for their content moderation policies.
It seems that no matter how hard you try to stay out of the crossfire, someone will always take offense at something you said or did online.
This phenomenon isn’t new. People have been shunning one another since time immemorial. But what makes this era different is the sheer speed with which these decisions can be made – and shared – online.
In just a few clicks, anyone with access to a computer or smartphone can instantly destroy your reputation.
Unfortunately, this means that businesses must now prepare themselves for potential backlash even before they put anything into the world wide web.
Here’s a business owner’s guide to navigating cancel culture and protecting your brand online.
What Is Cancel Culture?
We can view cancel culture in two ways – an organized effort to boycott or discredit an entity and the public’s reaction against something they deem offensive. While this behavior has always existed, it has been given more prominence through the internet.
So, what is cancel culture?
Cancel culture started as a way of holding corporations and individuals accountable for their words and actions. Some forms of cancel culture include:
- Boycotting or no-platforming certain products or brands.
- Organizing social media campaigns to draw attention to injustice.
- Publicly shaming those who have uttered offensive comments.
Cancel culture is “often used for people or companies that have a different political or moral view than most of society, so they get publicly fired or shunned,” said Tim Clarke, Rize Reviews’ Senior Reputation Manager.
Canceling serves as a popular means of taking collective action against those perceived to have wronged or oppressed marginalized groups.
No matter how you look at it, cancel culture is here to stay, and there’s only one way to protect your reputation online in this “cancel-happy” world: prepare.
Cancel Culture Examples That Will Make Your Brand Shiver
Cancel culture isn’t like negative comments that you can simply delete from your social media accounts. It often spreads faster than you can handle, and the consequences are far-reaching and long-lasting.
Here are three cancel culture examples that make you think twice before making a business decision.
No list is complete without mentioning the world’s most famous social media platform, Facebook. From the Cambridge Analytica privacy scandal to its content moderation policies, the platform has come under fire more than once for handling user data and how it affects user privacy.
Facebook also faced a collective boycott from civil rights groups after allowing hate speech to spread on its platform. This boycott prompted the company to create an independent audit board to review its content moderation decisions and policies.
Sure, many still use Facebook for personal and business purposes, but we wouldn’t say that people love using the platform or feel safe putting their data on it.
If you’re in the fashion industry, you’ll be familiar with Balenciaga’s infamous 2018 Gift Shop campaign, featuring child models clutching the brand’s latest leather-strapped bear bags. The ad was widely criticized for its “sexualization” of young children and led to an immediate backlash from social media users, who described it as “creepy” and “disturbing.”
And as is the case with many online scandals, users took some “investigation” into their own hands and started digging up dirt on the company. This revealed Balenciaga’s other campaign – an Adidas collab featuring the Three Stripes handbag on top of Supreme Court documents that ruled against child porn crimes.
The public outrage was so potent that even Kim Kardashian said she would “re-evaluate” working with Balenciaga.
Heineken’s “Lighter Is Better” Campaign
While Balenciaga’s ad campaigns seem like a misstep, the same could not be said about Heineken’s “Lighter Is Better” campaign. Many criticized this advertisement for its implied racism, leading to the company eventually pulling it down and issuing an apology.
Their ad started with a beer sliding down the bar and stopping in front of a lighter-skinned customer, which many interpreted as endorsing light-skin privilege.
Here’s one tweet from Chance The Rapper that garnered several likes and retweets:
With racially charged ads like this, it’s no surprise that Heineken received so much backlash.
Negative Effects of Cancel Culture
It’s easy to see how cancel culture can have a detrimental effect on large businesses. But how about smaller firms?
It’s worth noting that the effects could be far-reaching for small to mid-sized firms if you don’t know how to protect your online reputation from cancel culture.
It’s a PR Nightmare
To start, companies can face substantial PR disasters if their brand is canceled. The negative press associated with this type of incident could lead to lost sales and damaged relationships with customers, partners and investors.
You’ll be issuing apologies, deleting posts and issuing refunds to control the damage done. This is on top of getting trolled and receiving angry emails and messages from people who disagree with your brand’s decisions.
Your Stakeholders Will Get Caught in the Crossfire
Needless to say, this is a difficult time for your company. But it’s also a difficult time for your stakeholders, such as:
These stakeholders may become collateral damage in the cancel culture battle if their names are associated with your company. This could lead to a loss of income, trust and reputation. They might even be subject to public scrutiny and ridicule.
It’s important to know how to protect your online reputation from cancel culture to protect your stakeholders. For example, an unsuspecting employee could tarnish their own reputation if associated with your company’s negative reputation. Similarly, investors and suppliers may be reluctant to invest in your business if there is a risk of their association with it being made public.
A good way to protect your stakeholders would be to proactively promote the good things people are already saying about your brand. This is what a neuroscience group practices in Merrimack Valley, did.
They leveraged website widgets and high-level performance reports to improve their service over time.
This resulted in better ratings and increased reviews in just 294 days.
It’s Swift, Devastating and Relentless
Unlike regular negative reviews, cancel culture can be incredibly fast and persistent. This is because it’s fueled by the power of social media, where news travels rapidly and criticism can be relentless.
Controlling this negative publicity is difficult as it won’t go away quickly. You’ll need to put in a lot of time and effort to come up with solutions, apologize and make amends for past mistakes.
At the same time, you’ll be constantly dealing with the public’s reactions and criticism. The negative effects of cancel culture can be felt fast, and you may need to make difficult decisions that can affect your business in the long term.
You’ll Suffer Long-Term Damage
From boycotts to lost sales to damaged relationships – many long-term damages can be caused by cancel culture.
“You can lose customers and hurt your bottom line for one quick-moving situation,” Clarke said.
He further cited Bud Light’s recent fiasco right now. Many people from both sides of the political spectrum are disagreeing with their recent ad campaign featuring Dylan Mulvaney, a transgender TikTok star.
It’s important to remember that this kind of incident can have a lasting effect on your reputation and brand image. You might not be able to recover from it immediately, and it could take months (if not years) for people to start trusting your brand again.
Online Reputation Management Tips
So, how do you deal with brand damage in this era of cancellation? Clarke offers these online reputation management tips to get you started.
Develop a Crisis Plan To Address Negative Feedback
Nothing beats having a plan to address any kind of negative feedback, especially when it comes to cancel culture.
Clarke said these plans should be workable and implemented even during weekends and holidays.
Your crisis plan must include the following:
- Establishing a straightforward process for responding to and resolving complaints.
- Having an internal protocol in place for handling customer feedback.
- Providing a platform for customers to provide honest feedback.
We recommend implementing a customer feedback system in your business to help you identify potential issues before they become problematic.
Take Responsibility and Apologize When Appropriate
Don’t underestimate the power of apologies to protect your online reputation. While you may think that a “non-apology” is better than admitting fault, in most cases, customers will appreciate a straightforward apology.
Acknowledge your mistakes, take responsibility for them and make amends wherever necessary. This helps rebuild trust with your stakeholders and customers.
Respond to negative feedback as quickly and professionally as you can. Don’t ignore it or fuel the fire by engaging in online debates.
Monitor Online Reputation for Unfavorable Discussions
Listening to customer feedback is vital to gaining insights into public opinion of your brand.
You can use social listening tools such as Hootsuite and Buffer to monitor online reputation if you need to.
“Hire someone to look at the social media channels and negative reviews daily or at least during workdays,” Clarke said.
“You can hire a software company to help monitor your brand and reply to reviews.”
This helps you identify potential threats and address them before they can do substantial brand damage.
Invest in Online Reputation Management Services
These online reputation management tips are best done with some automation magic from online reputation management companies.
Instead of manually monitoring, responding and analyzing customer feedback, you can leverage the power of online reputation management tools to automate these tasks.
These services usually have features that allow you to monitor online reputation, respond quickly, track conversations and analyze sentiment in real time.
A home warranty company from Boca Raton leveraged these services to unburden their marketing team from handling thousands of client reviews every day.
They started with a measly 3.0 Google rating in November 2020. By the end of March 2021, this home warranty company achieved a sterling 4.6-star rating and more than 65 client reviews.
As we said, reputational damage from cancel culture is fast and destructive. Therefore, you can only effectively protect your reputation online when you have the tools that can fix and address issues just as quickly.
Protect Your Online Reputation With Rize
The negative effects of cancel culture can be terrifyingly real.
That’s why it’s so important to stay proactive and protect your online reputation before it suffers from any kind of reputational damage. Utilize these tips to prevent long-term reputational damage, rebuild trust with stakeholders and save your brand in the long run.
If you’re looking for an easy way to take control of your online reputation and protect it from any potential damage, Rize is here to help. Unlike other online reputation management companies, Rize is a comprehensive suite of tools that quickly addresses online issues, like misinformation or negative reviews.
From automated monitoring, review collection and other done-for-you services Rize has everything you need to protect your reputation online from brand damage.
Schedule a free demo of Rize today to learn more about building and protecting your online reputation.