156: “Are You About to Be Canceled?”with Molly McPherson

How to Build an Indestructible Online Brand

“I’m here learning and I made this mistake and I’m taking full accountability for it. People can accept that. What they can’t accept is you deflecting, denying, and putting it on other people.” – Azul Terronez

In Molly McPherson’s new book, “Indestructible: Reclaim Control and Respond with Confidence in a Media Crisis,” she describes two types of people.

The first group she calls “Digital Misfits,” who aren’t particularly tech savvy and a bit hesitant to use social media. The second group comprises “Digital Naturals,” who are comfortable using technology and well aware of the risks that come with an online presence.

Falling into either category isn’t dependent on age or a job title, but rather on mindset, skills, and experience. On this week’s episode of “Authors Who Lead,” Molly explains why understanding how social media works is so important, the roots of “cancel culture,” how to keep your reputation indestructible, and how to repair it if all goes wrong.

A Crisis of Misunderstanding

High-profile celebrities sometimes overlook how social media can impact their reputations, and just assume their power and status will negate any crisis.

Look at Bill Cosby, for example. In our interview, Molly broke down the #MeToo scandal as an example of how misunderstanding social media can result in a disaster — and how the assumption that his power, reputation and legacy would carry him through it crashed and burned.

But even if a celebrity does manage to repair an online reputation, it will always come at a cost. 

When accusations of Ellen DeGeneres’ toxic workplace environment surfaced, the talk show host first remained silent, and then blamed those around her for the social media crisis. And while she’s working to repair her reputation now, it has cost her so much — and, perhaps most notably, the trust of her followers.

A Crisis of Character

Most often, a media crisis starts with a person’s character. There could be an event that shoves the celebrity into the limelight, but it’s the response that typically becomes the real crisis.

Author Rachel Hollis recently came under fire when she and her husband announced their divorce. The news shocked her followers, considering the couple had just held a marriage conference and branded themselves as “living authentically” — prompting them to question whether her business and marriage were both shams. According to Molly, the author made a huge social media mistake by never taking accountability for her faults and blaming others, just like Ellen DeGeneres.

The Three-Step Response Formula

After many years of experience, Molly developed a three-step framework to help others manage their way through any crisis. 

Rachel Hollis made her mistake on the very first step, which is to apologize, admit, acknowledge and accept. Step two is to explain to others, followed by step three, which focuses on making promises.

Without step one, the person experiencing a social media crisis is just spinning in circles. In order to repair that reputation, accepting responsibility for what happened, before moving onto the two remaining steps, is critical.

The Roots of “Cancel Culture”

The idea of “cancel culture” was born out of social media crises. 

When a person — celebrity or otherwise — has acted in a way that others feel is wrong or offensive, they are pushed out of social media circles, or “canceled.”

As the leading authority on public relations and crisis response, Molly has noticed that although “cancel culture” is seen as a mob mentality, it often comes down to a select few who have a gripe. Because of the pandemic, more people are online and it is easier for even one person to affect the reputation of a person or a brand.

Finding Her Book Journey

The moment Molly knew she needed to write a book came at a conference, while watching the keynote speaker and author place books on every chair.

As it turned out, the person was not particularly interesting, Molly recalled, but Harvard accolades and being a published writer had helped the speaker snag the gig. So when conference reviews dropped and Molly, who was a speaker herself, had landed among the top performers, she decided it was her time to write a book, too.

And in doing so, Molly not only reached more people dealing with social media crises, but she also accelerated and elevated her own work and brand, she explained to me.

I worked alongside Molly as she navigated her book journey, and it was such an honor. In the beginning, she envisioned it as a book for CEOs and leaders in all industries, but through the process, she realized her ideal audience was communicators — especially those in business and trying to keep up with tech, while learning how to gain confidence and communicate in our viral world.

I asked Molly for two pieces of advice for new authors. First, she said, if you want to write a book, it’s absolutely possible. A book is a project, just like creating a blog or podcast. Second, Molly admits, this book journey is difficult to do alone. You need to get a book coach, someone who can be there throughout the process and demystify it.

As you’re navigating through social media, either for your book or for personal reasons, keep in mind these three biggest takeaways from my discussion with Molly:

  1. Having the confidence to communicate your message is about understanding how social media works.
  2. Understand that “cancel culture” is more about a crisis of character than it is about “the other” out to get you.
  3. There is a framework to keep your reputation indestructible and safe from harm, and if something does go wrong, you can repair it. 

What was your biggest takeaway from the episode? What fears or gaps in knowledge do you have surrounding the world of social media? Share in the comments below!

That’s all for this week. If you’re unsure how to start your book journey, find a mentor or book coach and start writing today!

Episode Resources

Website: https://mollymcpherson.com

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/mollymcpherson

Twitter: Molly McPherson, APR (@MollyMcPherson)

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/molly.mcpherson

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/mollymcphersonPR

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