Ryan Lochte’s Rebrand

By India Hagen-Gates

BackReputation is everything and thanks to social media, one event can ruin it. In today’s world, monitoring a reputation online is a vital role. When a crisis takes hold of a company’s reputation, the first impulse may be to jump ship, but it is crucial to stay present. During a crisis, if used correctly, social media help to get your message out. Going silent online during a time like this doesn’t guarantee your audience’s discussion will stop, it only means they will keep talking without you. In fact, there is an increase in social shares in times of crisis. Constituents want information after a scandal breaks and they want it fast. Social media, when used correctly, can help in this diffusion of accurate and beneficial information to the public. Every company should be prepared for a crisis even on social media, new and ever-changing as it is. How one person reacts to a crisis online may be very different than another. Using social media as a tool during a stressful incident must take into account the key audience, the specific objectives, and state of the company’s reputation.

One recent example of a crisis can be seen in the Olympic swimmer, Ryan Lochte. During the Rio Olympics, Lochte and three other swimmers, drunkenly vandalized a gas station and were forced to pay for the damages. However, Lochte told a very different story. He played the victim, stating his cab was pulled over, he was held at gunpoint, and then stolen from. Both stories are fantastical, but one does far more damage to Lochte’s reputation. Lochte is nearing the end of his career and #Lochtegate, a play on Nixon’s Watergate scandal, seemed ready to take the swimmer down for good. Yet he hired a celebrity crisis manager, and issued an apology on Instagram, which served only as the starting point. Many reacted to his initial apology in a negative way. It seemed dishonest, cold, and distant. As people described him as a disgrace to the nation, Lochte and his team were listening. He went even further and appeared in an interview with Matt Lauer, explaining his actions and admitting guilt in the situation.

After the initial social media apology, Lochte was careful about what he posted. His reputation has been a party boy; he liked to have fun and work hard. However, his stunt in Rio took his reputation from the harmless playboy to a reckless criminal. As the scandal was breaking, he was active on social media, doing more to hurt his reputation by ignoring the problem and ignoring the response from his audience. His Instagram apology was seen in bad taste. His initial social media use was uninformed and had no motivation to please the audience. Building a personal brand on social media can be achieved by posting a variety of images, such as “backstage” looks and images that have to deal with their sport . Now, Lochte and his team are focused on rebuilding his reputation, so his posts all have to do with how he is living now and what he is doing moving forward to make up for his past. All of Lochte’s actions and posts are focused on his reputation. He no longer posts without a purpose.