Reputation Repair: Making a Career Comeback After Being ‘Canceled’

In the age of cancel culture, thinking twice before saying a snarky comment, or chipping in your two cents on a politically polarizing tweet is worthwhile before you become condemned in the court of public opinion.

Photo by RODNAE Productions:

As important as it is to establish a digital media footprint to build your reputation, it can fall apart as quickly as a house of cards because of an unwarranted public spectacle or a bad lapse in judgment. Your speech and actions can have consequences whether you’re a public figure in Hollywood or a mid-level employee at your job.

The Cancellation of Will Smith and His Bounce Back

Oscar-winning actor Will Smith’s momentous moment of accepting the Best Actor award for the first time in his career for his portrayal of Richard Williams, the father of tennis stars Venus and Serena, in the film “King Richard,” was overshadowed after he rushed the stage and assaulted Chris Rock after the comedian made what some people thought was a tasteless joke about Smith’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith. The on-air and live incident sent social media into a frenzy – some rushing to the West Philly rapper/actor’s defense, others blasting him for slapping Rock. 

Needless to say, the spectacle on Hollywood’s biggest night led to the Academy of Motion Pictures suspending Smith from attending Academy events and programs for 10 years. Despite the Fresh Prince’s action, he’s managed to bounce back fairly swiftly from the March 27 incident, even appearing recently at the screening of his newest movie “Emancipation.”

“What shocked everybody isn’t because we expected it – it shocked us because it was so out of character for him,” said Lida Citroën, personal branding expert and CEO of LIDA360. “What can save somebody like that is his PR people can say ‘this isn’t who he is and that was just a misstep.'”

Given how quickly rumors and opinions can spread, anyone can find themselves in need of reputation repair. Finurah spoke to Citroën, a reputation management expert, about implementing an action plan that’ll help with damage control to reconcile wrongs and redeem your career. 

How to Make a Career Comeback: Separate Emotions from Facts 

A rule of thumb is to not let your emotion cloud your perception of what are indisputable facts. A bruised ego can be tough to deal with after being let go from a job or having someone throw shade at you because of a stance you took on a contemporary issue that has landed you in a hot tub of criticism from Twitter trolls. 

“Oftentimes people just don’t realize something they did wasn’t appropriate. Or, if you got fired from a job, is it possible that you were in the wrong job, to begin with,” Citroën said. “Try to separate your feelings from what happened to where there are areas for growth and learning.”

Create a Narrative

Evading the issue that has damaged your reputation won’t help as your try to reinvigorate your image. Facing criticism head-on is the best tactic to begin rebuilding your life. Not avoiding difficult conversations is important to begin repairing your reputation or relationship.

“Most clients that I work with have gone through some sort of reputation trauma whether it was their fault or not. They feel powerless because they don’t know how to talk about it,” said Citroën.  “Having a narrative or a way to explain whether to your neighbor at the grocery store, to a future employer, or to the public is a powerful tool.”

Show Contrition 

Taking ownership of what happened and make amends for whatever wrongs are done.  If an apology is warranted, or if counseling is needed, don’t hesitate to take action to start regaining trust. No matter what field you’re in, people talk so fixing those relationships is crucial.

“When someone owns it and apologizes, they can still show confidence about who they are and what they can offer.” 

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