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Turning Negativity into a Brand Building Opportunity

Aug 22 2016

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When it comes to Justin Bieber, I tend not to have an opinion. I’m not a follower of pop music. And I don’t find myself enamoured by the cult of celebrity; voraciously following who’s doing or wearing what in the tabloids. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, it’s just not me.

As a PR and social media professional, however, it’s my job to at least remain aware of what’s going on and what people are talking about. So it was in this capacity that I learned about Bieber's decision to (temporarily) turn off his Instagram channel, cutting ties with more than 77 million fans.

If you haven’t heard the story, here’s the Coles notes version:

1. Not nice comments are directed at Bieber’s GF
2. Bieber threatens to leave Instagram “...if you guys don’t stop the hate.”
3. His ex-gf chimes in, chastising him publically
4. Delete!
5. Welcome back?

While the choice to leave Instagram is a bold one for someone who is, himself, a product of social media, it’s not a winning strategy.

At Strategic Objectives, we’re constantly counselling our clients on how to manage negativity in the press, deal with trolls online and answer the tough question. No matter the situation or medium, the one thing we have never told a client is to stop communicating. Going quiet creates a vacuum for the competition or “haters” to fill. “No comment” is never an option. Negativity received is an opportunity to share-out positive messaging.

It’s axiomatic but, Justin, if you don’t like the conversation – change it!

Instead of deleting his account before quickly rejoining Instagram, Bieber could have used this opportunity to up his sweetness value by talking about the inclusiveness of love; or showcase his newly discovered maturity by talking about how hard it is to move on from a breakup when real emotions are involved. He could have even taken a certain American presidential candidate’s approach and said something ridiculous and inflammatory, though I wouldn’t have recommended that.

Better still, Justin could have used this moment and his substantial platform to shine a light on cyber-bullying – a topic that is surely near and dear to his fans. Having seen his reputation suffer in recent years, becoming a champion for online positivity and “stopping the hate” would have been a powerful and authentic cause for the Stratford native. A survey commissioned by Strategic Objectives earlier this year found that Gen Y and Z girls are 2-times more likely than their Generation X counterparts to encounter misogyny online. It’s a big issue! How many more fans would this approach have won him? How many more endorsements? How much more credibility? How many lines of negative press could have been avoided?

It may seem silly – with Justin Bieber being the example – but for any company, brand or public person mired in a crisis, there is an important lesson here. When it comes to social media you can’t just take your ball and go home. Shutting down or ignoring an issue only makes things worse. Even a crisis can be transformed into an opportunity to enhance your reputation. That’s good PR!

SO. Are you dealing with unwanted, unwarranted negativity? We are experts at crisis management and would be happy to help. Please contact us.

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