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Celebrity image management: how it works

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by Jennifer Bridges  @JenBridgesRD

Celebrity posing for paparazzi on red carpet

This post has been modified to reflect new information since its original publication.

If you are a celebrity, then you know that your online image—what people are saying about you on the Internet—is often at the mercy of the press and social media. This makes sense when you consider the fact that celebrities are essentially brands, and as such, they are subject to the same things that affect business brands. Just like businesses get roasted for insensitive social media posts, celebrities can see their reputation deteriorate after a few ill-advised Tweets—even if these posts are from many years ago.

Consequently, celebrities—just like businesses—need to take charge of the online conversation to protect their image.

Why you should care about your online image

A strong online image makes you more marketable. After all, people buy tickets to shows that feature stars they like and purchase products because celebrities they trust endorse them. As such, your image can significantly affect your earning potential.

Of course, the bigger a star you are, the more money your brand is worth. While a megastar like Beyoncé can leverage her personal brand to land a $50 million contract with Pepsi, most celebrities can expect their endorsements to bring in anywhere from $2000 for a single Tweet to as much as $300,000 for a video on YouTube.

Unfortunately, as lucrative as a celebrity brand can be, it can also be incredibly fragile. Jobs and endorsements can vanish in an instant if somebody decides to attack you on social media or complain about you to the companies that hire you. Similarly, your mere association with an organization that does something to attract negative press can also tarnish your reputation.

Is online reputation negatively affecting your career? Find out with our free Reputation Report Card. Start Your Scan

A positive reputation is also the best defense against smear campaigns or other negative online content. This is important because as a public figure you are a target for gossip and rumors, which can quickly spread across the Internet, regardless of whether or not they are true.

To safeguard your online image from these and other threats, you should take the steps outlined here:

How to manage your online image

Protecting your online image basically involves finding out what your online image is and then taking steps to counteract any false or harmful narratives.

1. Learn what people are saying about you

You can’t manage your online image if you don’t know what it is. To do this, you’ll need to conduct various Internet searches for your name and a combination of other identifying information, such as what projects you’ve worked on or where you live. For example, “Your Name + City” or “Your Name + Movie Title.”

Note: Before searching, make sure to log out of your browser or use a browser you normally don’t use. This way, your past search history won’t affect the results that Google shows you.

2. Determine what information you want to suppress

After you have discovered what information exists about you online, you’ll need to decide what items you want to make harder for other people to find. Your first priority should be to remove any online content that reveals personal or private information, like your address and telephone number, as having this data exposed can make you more likely to be burglarized, stalked, or targeted for identity theft or financial fraud. For more detailed information about removing your personal information from the Internet, see our article on how to delete yourself from the Internet.

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You’ll also need to downplay things like:

3. Post positive information about yourself 

To further control the narrative surrounding your online image, you need to add your voice to the conversation. You can do this by publishing accurate, relevant, and interesting information about yourself on sites you control, such as personal websites and profiles/channels for social media and other sharing sites. This influx of positive results can help push down undesirable ones in web searches for your name.

Some methods of projecting the image you want people to see include:

4. Acknowledge mistakes when appropriate

All human beings make mistakes. However, because celebrities are under a constant microscope, even the slightest error can make headlines almost immediately. The best way to manage your brand is to own up to your mistakes because it gives you more control of the media narrative.

5. Engage with your fans on social media

Connecting with your fans on social media can make “humanize” you by making you more accessible and relatable. As such, you should try to reach out to people every day and make new friends. Treat your followers with respect and you will gain new fans.
If you encounter any negative comments, be sure to remain calm and professional in your response. Never attack the person you are addressing, as this will only reflect badly on you.

Is online reputation negatively affecting your career? Find out with our free Reputation Report Card. Start Your Scan

6. Know when to stay quiet

Sometimes, timing is the most important part of managing your online image, and the best way to protect your reputation is to simply assume a low profile for a little while. While the Internet may have a long memory, most people are happy to forget about you and move on to the next celebrity gaffe.

7. Make sure you only support carefully screened causes

This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t use your star power for good; it’s just that you have to carefully research who you work with. Any brand can be damaged by an association as much as it can be by an actual mistake on its part, and celebrities are no exception.

8. Monitor the Internet constantly

Your job isn’t done after you’ve replaced negative search results with positive ones because salacious and damaging information has a habit of reappearing. For this reason, it’s a good idea to monitor the Internet, quash rumors, and make statements on a daily basis. Keep an eye on gossip blogs, social media trends, news articles, and other sources of coverage to see what people are saying about you, and how this information compares with the image you want to project.

There are a variety of social monitoring tools that will notify you when your name appears online. Some of the most popular include:

Next Steps

Now that you have a basic idea of what taking charge of your online image involves, it’s time to learn more about the process. Check out some of our other helpful articles, including the following: