How to Overcome a Personal Branding Crisis and Bounce Back

Brands undergo crises perhaps more often than anyone would like to admit. And somehow, they manage to overcome the challenges thrown at them.

But what happens when a personal brand is thrown into crisis? Is there any way to recover? Can you bounce back from a personal branding crisis?

These are only a few of the questions we will be answering in this article. Keep reading to find out what you can do to mitigate the effects of a personal branding crisis and what tools you can use to recover and rebuild it.

What Types of Crises Can Affect a Personal Brand?

A public persona’s image is not easy to build. PR and reputation management professionals know this all too well. From building a personal branding strategy to managing day-to-day tasks like content marketing a lot of work goes into how a public person is perceived by the public.

However, just like regular brands, personal brands are likely to experience crises. Several types, in fact.

With social media promoting increased visibility and greater personal transparency, more eyes than ever are analyzing every move and issuing judgments. Public personas are required to be true to generally-accepted principles and not associate themselves with anything considered objectionable.

Realistically, that can’t happen all the time and things will happen that the public won’t agree with.

In such cases, public perception can swing from positive to negative in a heartbeat. Many times, all it takes is for the said person to:

  • Make a wrong comment during an interview
  • Post inappropriate content or share a controversial statement on social media
  • Do something that is considered offensive or insulting

But it can even be as small as a silly tweet, or an outreach email that was not well prepared, and, as a result, not well received. 

Once a mistake is made, it’s all downhill fast. The media, social media channels, and Google will take that information, spread it, and plunge the said persona into public perception darkness.

Unmanaged, this negative perception can end up defining how the public person is viewed and significantly hinder their activity moving forward. Not only this, but it can also affect their career, livelihood, family, community, and opportunities.

What Can You Do to Repair a Personal Brand?

Fortunately, all is not lost if you or a client find yourselves in the midst of a personal branding crisis. From taking matters into your own hands to hiring a lawyer, a publicist, or using reputation management software, options exist.

While it won’t be an easy road to walk on, reputations undergoing a crisis can be rebuilt using the right strategies.

The key to managing a personal branding crisis lies in changing public perception. This can be achieved by:

  • mitigating the ill-effects of the crisis
  • redefining the personal brand
  • regaining public respect
  • shifting the public’s attention
  • managing the narrative

3 Ways to Overcome a Personal Branding Crisis

All personal branding crises strategies must rely on these fundamental pillars to ensure success:

  • proper assessment
  • honesty and transparency
  • clear and comprehensive planning

Here are a few clear steps you can take to mitigate the negative effects of a personal branding crisis:

Evaluate the Situation

Even if it starts from a single event, a personal branding crisis can open the door to several separate negative narratives. For this reason, it’s important to start any rebuilding strategy off with a thorough assessment of the after-effects.

One story can lead to another and, before you know it, what triggered the crisis in the first place can develop into a whole different story.

Knowing exactly what is being said and what potential twists the initial trigger took will help you better understand what needs to be addressed and how you should prioritize your actions.

On top of this, a personal branding crisis wave can spread across multiple channels. It can circulate on social media, through traditional media channels, or among connections in the person’s own network.

Therefore, the other important aspect you need to take into account is where the crisis reports are being distributed to a greater extent. This way, you can prioritize them as well and plan out your communication depending on said channels.

In other words, what’s vital is that you assess every aspect so you can know what and how to address it to overcome the crisis.

When it comes to the assessment of the situation, there are two outcomes you can expect. One is that the impact of the personal branding crisis affects the public person’s image less than you had anticipated. Or, in fewer circles.

The other, not as good one, is that the attention the crisis is getting is putting the public person’s image and their pursuits in more danger than you thought. This may mean it is getting more publicity than you had anticipated, or it is snowballing into more than it initially was.

Either way, the first step in taking action to repair the personal brand is to know what you’re dealing with and what you’re up against.

Determine Your Goals

Next, you need to determine your goals.

Making the crisis go away or hiding from it are not viable options. Although they certainly are what any public persona would prefer given the circumstances.

Your goals must reflect the results of your assessment. They need to factor in how much attention the crisis is getting from the media and the public and what you stand to lose and need to protect the most.

For instance, let’s say the crisis was generated by a misunderstanding. In this case, all your efforts should go into clarifying the details of what happened or what was said and highlighting the actions the public person took in the past or is taking currently to support the fact that it was a misunderstanding.

If the crisis stands to affect only their relationship with their business partners, the actions should be directed towards clearing their image in those circles. If it mostly affects their public perception, they will need to take to social media and other popular channels to address the matter and clear their name.

On the other hand, if the action that caused the crisis is something reprehensible, the steps you can take to rebuild the personal brand are likely to be more limited.

The public person will have to accept that they will lose more, and you will need to plan out a strategy that mitigates the effects of the crisis to a realistic extent. This could mean reinventing themselves or accepting that rebuilding their personal brand will take much longer.

Plan Ahead

In most cases, addressing the crisis trigger directly is the smartest way to go. However, it’s not the only way to go. Depending on several factors and the gravity of the trigger, laying low or keeping quiet for a certain period may be the way to go.

Your assessment and your goals will dictate what path you should follow for this step of the journey to overcoming the personal branding crisis.

If you assess that addressing the issue is the way to go, map out the statements you can start distributing. Include key facts and statements and enlist the help of specialized professionals such as lawyers to cover all the facets of your statement.

The key is to keep it low-key. You don’t want to include any comments that may trigger another crisis or deepen the existing one. And you certainly don’t want to engage in any disagreements or controversies.

Personal emotions must be left aside for the personal branding crisis to be overcome. The emphasis must stay on facts.

Next, you will need to decide what main channels to use to tell your side of the story. It can be social media content, traditional media, or others. You can issue a written statement, make a video, give an interview.

There are plenty of options and you must choose the one that works best for your scenario.  

Last but not least, you must decide who gets to tell your side of the story. Is it the public persona themselves? A representative? A journalist? A fan or community member?

The choices are not limited. But again, it all comes down to what best suits your story and situation.

How to Conduct Yourself in the Midst of a Personal Branding Crisis?

With running and hiding not being an option, rolling with the punches is usually the best way to go when undergoing a personal branding crisis.

Here, you have two main options. If the crisis is by no fault of the public person or it is a misunderstanding, dealing with it won’t be as hard. If the public person is not in the wrong, their image can be cleared and most likely restored through a few simple actions.

If, however, they are in the wrong and their actions are reprehensible, one way to address the crisis and try to overcome it is by admitting fault and accepting the consequences. Another is to allow more time to pass and constantly assess the damage caused by the crisis and the attention it is getting. And then, planning accordingly.

No matter the situation, there are two words that can help recover a personal brand after a crisis: honesty and respect.

Honesty Is the Best Policy

A strong personal brand will be based on certain guiding principles and values. These allow followers or the public to establish an emotional connection with the public person.

In the midst of a crisis, taking actions to strengthen this emotional connection with the public is more important than ever.

One way to do this is to be open and honest about what happened or what was said. Addressing the issue head-on and being transparent about it will have a positive effect on how the public person is perceived.

This is because not only is honesty the best policy but being open and truthful about things can strengthen the emotional connection the public has with the public persona when they view them as vulnerable.

Being vulnerable and open may include:

  • admitting the mistake
  • showing what clear actions they are taking to remedy the consequences of that mistake
  • showing what clear actions they are taking to prevent that mistake from occurring again in the future

Now, the way the issue is addressed publicly cannot be left to chance. A team of specialists from lawyers to PR professionals and publicists is the best way to go to make sure all aspects are covered, and no indirect or additional consequences arise from addressing the matter.

The key elements that need to be part of any plan to overcome a personal branding crisis are:

  • honesty
  • authenticity
  • humility
  • consistency

Focus on Earning Back Respect

To rebuild a personal brand, you must ensure any respect lost due to the crisis is regained. For this, the 4 pillars mentioned above are essential.

Not only does the person need to be honest and authentic. They must also be consistent in their attempt to bounce back from the crisis and avoid any instances where they could be viewed as arrogant or egotistic.

In most cases, this step will take time (sometimes years) and require a coherent recovery plan.

The plan must include comprehensive actions for disproving any allegations the crisis has generated with respect to the person’s character. For example, if the person was portrayed as ruthless or rude, they must take actions that prove they are, in fact, compassionate and considerate.

Actions, in this case, may include interviews, public statements, or public appearances. The person must:

  • undertake philanthropic endeavors
  • share social media content that rebuilds public trust and is in line with the values of the public persona’s brand
  • associate themselves with people and circumstances that emphasize their core principles
  • take actions to prove they have learned from any past mistakes and are correcting their behavior

Other actions may include PR tools like outreach, rebranding strategies, and link building. These efforts should have a focus on showing that the public person stands for and believes in values that disprove any allegations brought about by the crisis.

Personal Branding Means Taking Responsibility

The most important tip to overcome a personal branding crisis is to — admit that it is happening. Do not pretend that nothing is going on, and try to do business as usual. It will backfire.

Mistakes happen, take charge of yours. As the saying goes “life is 10% what happens to you, and 90% how you react to it.” Apply this in your personal branding strategy.

About the Author — Andy Cabasso

Andy Cabasso is co-founder of Postaga — the easiest way to build links and traffic, with an all-in-one SEO research, contact finder, and email outreach platform.