Crisis Management in Cancel Culture

Crisis Management in Cancel Culture

In today’s world, cancel culture is a phrase all too often used to describe the destruction of a person or business’s reputation, often caused by a public misstep. But, whether it’s a minor mistake or a catastrophic incident, how you approach crisis management in the wake of those situations is crucial, especially when everything feels urgent and drastic.

It is better to have crisis planning or crisis management guidelines and not need them than to be blindsided in the middle of a PR nightmare. A crisis today is not just a mistake blown out of proportion. It can destroy your reputation, cause you to lose your hard-earned trust as a person or brand, and be a costly nightmare that, if not handled properly, can become your professional demise.

First, What Is Cancel Culture?

Cancel culture has become a snowball effect on social media and the news regarding someone or something that has shown little to no regard for their actions, words, or behaviors and how it affects others. “Cancel culture refers to the mass withdrawal of support from public figures or celebrities who have done things that aren’t socially accepted today. This practice of “canceling” or mass shaming often occurs on social media platforms.”

Unfortunately, when a crisis arises, social media users can breed a mob mentality, decreeing the cancellation of a person or brand. If not handled delicately, methodically, and swiftly, canceling that person or brand is likely.

In its simplest form, cancel culture is the manifestation of generalized outrage that comes from a person or brand’s public actions. Normally, the public doesn’t differentiate between ill intent and honest mistakes, although the way you respond to the backlash does have an influence on your chances of surviving the crisis.

Why Having Crisis Management Plans Matter

Cancel culture places the power in the hands of the audience. In contrast, crisis management resumes a sense of control.

A crisis management plan is a contingency plan to help you navigate unexpected issues methodically. Even though you can never know when a crisis will pop up, there are measures you can take when the situation arises.

Crisis management plans outline the organization’s policies in the face of critical events that could jeopardize your reputation, profits, or operations to minimize damage.

Now that most businesses have an online presence, one of the biggest steps you can take when making a crisis management plan is your communication strategy. The policy should outline who will be your spokesperson, what channels you will use, how and when to respond, what types of information you want to express, and who should handle the responses.

Your marketing and PR experts, along with legal teams, will be able to guide you. Even though it is challenging to know what will cause a crisis, having a foundation outlined in a communication policy will help diffuse the situation more quickly.

How to Respond During A Crisis

While you may not have intended to be harmful, your humility shows that you understand your mistakes and take accountability for your impact.

Consumers now interact more with any brand or company than ever before, significantly influencing the market and creating a more complex process for you as the provider. Managing emotions and expectations is the core of responding to urgent problems amidst cancel culture. When you do respond, businesses should consider the following advice.


A little bit of empathy can go a long way. Most of the time, those upset and demanding the cancellation of a brand seek compassion and understanding. They see fault in the actions, words, or behaviors of those they are outraged by and want to know that their feelings and opinions are valued.

Therefore, you must take an empathetic approach during a crisis to respond to the situation. If not handled with a sense of understanding, or at the very least, showing that you are open to hearing why the situation has turned out differently than you intended, you run the risk of being canceled rather quickly.

Counteract With Positive Content

One of the worst things you can do during a crisis is to dismiss the opinions of others or get defensive and try to justify your actions. Receiving feedback from customers is a learning experience. Now, more than ever, customers have the upper hand when engaging with brands, offering opinions (whether good or bad), and using online spaces as a mouthpiece for their customer experiences.

Cancel culture demands an immediate response. Unfortunately, a quick, sympathetic response may get buried in negative feedback and comments. So how do you climb out of negative PR? By taking extra measures toward positive comments and feedback. One way to do this is by creating new content geared toward addressing the situation. Another way is to emphasize positive reviews and feedback.

Another way to address negative feedback is by showing your steps toward regaining trust in your customers. The proper response to your audience’s feedback is to take actionable steps to improve things. For example, brands have pledged transparency in their hiring processes to improve diversity, equity and inclusion as well as reduce the gender pay gaps. And others have committed to recycling or reforesting to make up for their carbon emissions.

Transparency and Accountability

While some brands have many filters they go through before publishing a nationwide advertisement, their message may still miss the mark. A recent example was Ulta’s poorly-phrased campaign regarding Kate Spade, a brand whose founder died by suicide in 2018.

One of the best ways to respond amid the urgency of cancel culture during a crisis is by being honest, acting from a place of accountability, and moving forward from a desire to make amends. Quick turnarounds may be part of the problem in today’s agile business world. But because fast expectations will remain, crisis management requires transparency and accountability.

Society today is tired of letting businesses get away with the same old tactics, and they’re demanding accountability. So your best bet is to create a crisis management plan for not if but when a situation arises is the smartest move you can make.

If you or your team could use some guidance in creating the best crisis management plan for you, book a discovery call today!