What to Do Before Influencers Go Off the Rails

By Vanessa Boynton

Any brand managers who have seen the news about PewDiePie’s anti-Semitic remarks are asking themselves: what will we do if our brand ambassadors screw up? I hope you haven’t encountered any debacles that have you questioning the future of your work with outside influencers, but – I’m sad to say – the odds are good that you will.

Don’t panic. Before you’re ever forced to cross that particularly treacherous bridge, commit the following to heart:

  1. Public relations work is inherently risky. When you started inviting people outside the brand to share their opinions, you did so knowing that praise will come with criticism. Similarly, opportunities to build exposure will come with caltrops planted firmly in the brand’s path to greatness. Having a plan – specifically an influencer plan – that is mindful of a couple of contingencies will help you navigate all manner of troubling circumstances.
  2. Make sure your brand values are always top-of-mind. Today’s brand personas should be open-minded and forward-thinking, but they should also have a clear set of lines that absolutely cannot be crossed. Thoroughly vet your brand ambassadors and influencers according to these values, and make the terms of your relationship (i.e. why it might end) with them clear from the very start.
  3. Be compassionate, swift and exacting. If an influencer crosses one of your lines, it’s your responsibility to respond with immediacy. Their mistake isn’t your fault and might even be understandable in various contexts, but your top priorities are the health of your brand and the confidence of your customers. If the terms of your relationship with your influencer were made clear in the beginning, they will know what to expect.
  4. Put your faith in your PR team. They’re not only prepared and informed, they know exactly how to respond when a troubling situation arises. They’ll keep you calm, advise you on next steps, and get the job done.