Online Brand Reputation: Five Lessons From Celebrity Fails

Nick Greene    By under Online Reputation Management.

Today, we're going to try something a little different. We're going to take a look at a few celebrities, and how they've engaged with the digital world around them.

I'm going somewhere with this, trust me.

See, here's the thing about superstars. They didn't get to where they are solely by accident. On some level, they understand how to market themselves - they know how to get people talking about them. As such, I'd say looking at some of the world's more popular (and controversial) personalities could give us a nice spot of insight into proper reputation management, no?

Right, let's get started.

Hiring The Wrong Person To Manage Your Brand Can Be Disastrous

Let me be clear - Lady Gaga is a talented artist, with a unique, bizarre sense of style that makes her one of the most eye-catching people in her field. Not only that, she's deep understanding of what's necessary for popularity on social media. All of those talents together, however, do not make her a suitable brand manager.

Polaroid discovered that the hard way, when they hired her for a creative director position in 2010. She was let go four years later, after it became clear that her odd aesthetic sense...doesn't really work that well with consumer electronics.  They wanted to revitalize their brand, but what they ended up doing instead was release a line of absurd-looking, dysfunctional devices that no one in their right mind would buy.

You Need To Be Careful What You Say

Donald Trump is...well, he's seen better days. He's declared bankruptcy more times than Google's tweaked its algorithms, and has managed to make a name for himself as a brash, arrogant bully whose toupee is just a few strands away from gaining sentience. Now, recently, Trump decided that the world of business just wasn't for him anymore.

No, he was born for politics.

Since entering the presidential race, he's shot his mouth off in a racist tirade about immigration, made it clear he's dumping vast amounts of his personal fortune into campaigning, and managed to get into an argument with The Daily Show's Jon Stewart over Twitter.

You can imagine how well that went for him - you can view the conversation here.

Trump is a walking case study in what happens when you don't know how to think your words through before speaking. Sure, he's enjoying a momentary surge as the GOP candidate, but it's probably only a matter of time before he says something to alienate them, as well.

It's Important To Understand Your Chosen Platform

Say what you will about Kendall Jenner, Kim Kardashian West's sister - she knows social media. More specifically, she knows Instagram. Though her celebrity status certainly has a bit to do with it, she's one currently one of the top accounts on the site; the most-followed user with some of the most popular photos. It's because she has an innate understanding of what makes for a great Instagram photo.

The sort of understanding you want where post creation's concerned.

Make Things Personal

The days of the faceless corporation - a business that communicated with its audience solely through impersonal, non-interactive ads - is far behind us. Today's business leaders need to be social savvy, and they need to be willing to show a weak, vulnerable, 'human' side to their customers. People need to know that there's a real human being on the other side of the corporate barricade, not a soulless robot.

This is something most celebrities understand very, very well.

"They may inhabit a different universe from the rest of us, but celebrities are real people, too. Many use their social networks to show what they're like off camera," reads a Mav Social blog post.  "Authenticity counts for a lot. Movie Star Vin Diesel, famous for The Fast and Furious blockbuster franchise has also developed a huge fanbase on Facebook.

"He writes extensively about his life, family and other celebrities and posts lots of behind the scenes pictures and videos," the post continues. "The Hollywood favourite will occasionally engage with fans by asking them questions and responding to comments."

A Bad Reputation Doesn't Need To Be The End

Anyone who watched Star Trek: The Next Generation remembers Wesley Crusher. An irritating, arrogant boy genius, Crusher adds absolutely nothing to the plot of the series, and instead serves only to aggravate everyone - actors, characters, and audience included - whenever he's onscreen. The kid who played him, Wil Wheaton, could very well have ended up a pariah for the rest of his life.

After all, he was the boy who ruined Star Trek.

Then a curious thing happened. Instead of trying to flee from the negativity, Wheaton embraced it. He became a recurring villain on the hit comedy The Big Bang Series, eventually using the recognition he gained from that to make himself one of the biggest names in tabletop gaming.

Far from being remembered as the irritating little scumbag, Wheaton is known more for his web series, and the parent company Geek & Sundry. For those of you who aren't really sure what I'm on about, let me explain: having a game you've made featured on Tabletop is the industry equivalent of having a page on your site personally endorsed by Matt Cutts of Google.

It's kind of a big deal.

Closing Thoughts

Celebrities spend the majority of their time in the limelight - so it sort of stands to reason that they'd know a little about how to handle themselves, and how to manage what people see of them. Well, in most cases, anyway.

Some are less shining examples and more cautionary tales.