When Your Personal Brand Takes A Hit

Being a public figure makes a fall from grace particularly humiliating. Witness Paula Deen’s self-propelled implosion last week: lawsuit, racial slurs, bungled apologies, fired from her biggest platform.

But just because you’re not a fixture on cable TV doesn’t mean your personal brand can’t—or won’t—take a hit now and then.

It can be your own damned fault—or a series of outside events that pull you into your own personal tsunami.

What matters most is what you do with it.

Crisis experts have a prescription which is way harder than it sounds: do your homework so you completely understand what happened, share just the right amount of information (too much or too little will backfire) and, above all, be honest.

Honest, as in a heart-felt “I’m sorry”. Delivered humbly, appropriately, it is a very good start to show that you “get” the harm you’ve caused.

But it’s not enough without the hardest part—action. You can’t do it again. You have to get to the core of the issue and fix it. Until you do, your mistake demonstrates who you really are more clearly than a thousand successes.

And here’s the rub when we’re talking personal brand. There are no short-cuts. The change—the hard, deep work—has to come from you. It’s your actions, your promises, your worldview—YOU—that that are in the bull’s eye. You’ve got no one to blame and nowhere to hide.

The silver lining? If the hit to your brand wasn’t lethal, it just may win you some converts who will admire your new-found wisdom.

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*I’ll be back after the Independence Day holiday—enjoy a glorious start to the summer!


  • You’re right. Criticism is many times a blessing in disguise. Sooner we identify that, better for us. It’s not always easy to turn things around, but quite possible in majority of cases. In Paula Deen’s case, it might take some time and a lot of effort. Criticism handled correctly and in a timely manner can turn customers or followers into raving fans. Thanks for a great post!

    • Rochelle

      Hi Mayur–welcome to this space! I suspect Paula Deen will retain some of her old-fashioned fan base, but predict it will be a fraction of what it was. Unless and until she figures out that her racist attitudes don’t belong in our multi-cultural society (and takes genuine action to fix them), her brand will never fully recover…

      • I suppose, that’s true in this case. I can’t help but wonder how this will affect her son Bobby Deen’s show and credentials. I suppose, we’ll have to wait and watch. Anyways, Have a wonderful summer!

  • Two bigger than life athletes, Michael Vick and Tiger Woods, had this humbling experience a few years ago. In my mind, both tried but neither succeeded, in calming much of the storm that developed. Vick went to prison then became active in the animal caring world. Tiger went to his own personal hell. Both returned as excellent athletes earning millions and even getting their sponsers back. But neithe have regained the faith and support of what was a loyal fan base.
    Another celebrity who comes to mind is martha Stewart, who probably went to jail more because she was a celebrity that was made an example of what can happen rather than the “crime” she committed.
    Paula Dean in my mind got caught up in a generational issue using words that were sadly part of the culture where and when she was raised.

  • Paula Deen: As God is my witness, as God is my witness they’re not going to lick me. I’m going to live through this and when it’s all over, I’ll never be hungry again. No, nor any of my folk. If I have to lie, steal, cheat or kill. As God is my witness, I’ll never be hungry again.

  • Another thought about Paula Deen. She became an “instant success” and now has to show she is repentant. Repentant for more than the millions of dollars she and her family will lose. Repentant for more than how her successful restaurant will suffer. She has an opportunity now to prove she can become a better person. I believe it needs to start within her local community and then expand outward like a pebble thrown in the water.

  • This has come up a lot in my “world” with former Member of Congress Anthony Weiner who had resigned following a use of twitter gone awry, perhaps tawdry, running for NYC mayor this year as he has intended before his behavior. He has emphasized himself as a wonky kind of pol with real proposals. Not getting into the real meat of them here; just how the media covers it. The interesting thing as I follow things like Paula Deen, I had to ask my wife who she is/ was because I just plain forgot about her. Also, all the shows on cable, as with a lot of radio, skewer to narrow demographics. Thus, I muse whether those who watch Deen care that much about her comments; the PR embarrassment to the suits that run her network might have driven the nail in her TV coffin.

  • It’s interesting Corey–I just saw a piece this morning that Paula Deen’s audience was down 25% from 2012-2013–BEFORE her gaffe. In Weiner’s case, the voters will decide…

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