taylorchapmanTaylor Chapman, a 27 year-old marketing practitioner in Ft. Lauderdale, FL learned a very important lesson about social media and personal branding.   What Taylor thought would be an opportunity to shame a retail store into submission actually turned into a personal branding disaster.  FreakOutNation said it best:  “A rude, obnoxious, loud, racist Florida woman videotaped an encounter at Dunkin’ Donuts in Fort Lauderdale and has quickly become despised throughout the Internet. In fact, she had to close her Facebook account.”

Talk about a social media strategy gone terribly wrong.

Taylor Chapman, who works for an SEO company called Power Sales Team, as a “video spokesperson,” didn’t learn the first rule of social media.  That rule is: social media is a fast-moving train with no brakes.  Once you post something on your Facebook page, it can quickly go viral – especially when it involves drama!  You can’t take it back.  You can’t stop the train from rolling along and picking up speed.

What Ms. Chapman also didn’t learn was that the thing you spent years building up can be torn down in just a matter of minutes.   To say that Ms. Chapman’s personal brand is destroyed is an understatement; it’s been beaten into tiny little pieces with a sledgehammer.   But, can she fix this?  Can Ms. Chapman successfully rebuild her brand?

Yes, Taylor Chapman can rebuild her brand.  Ask BP.  They did it!

What Taylor Chapman should know is that people are fickle and most of us have an extremely short-term memory.   With a solid public relations and social media strategy, Ms. Chapman can take advantage of the fact that most people won’t remember this situation in a couple of years.    The very tools Ms.  Chapman used to destroy her reputation – social media and video – can also be used to rebuild it.

My suggested re-branding strategy for Ms. Chapman:

1.  Go back to the Dunkin’ Donuts store and film a video of herself apologizing to the employees

2.  Post that video on Facebook (she would have to open a new account, of course)

3.  Film a video of herself making a public statement about how inappropriate her behavior was.  She needs to throw herself at the mercy of the entire web population

4.  Do interviews with podcasters and bloggers, emphasizing that she understands her behavior was rude, racist and unacceptable

5.   Get a job working in retail and blog about the rude customers she has to deal with every day.  This will help show that she finally understands what it’s like to be on the other side.

Notice how I mention nothing in this strategy that suggests she explain why she did what she did.  All of my suggestions are meant to position her as someone who has accepted her faults and wants to do whatever she can to make things right.  People don’t like excuses; we like solutions.

For a very long time, potential employers will Google Ms. Chapman and find this horrific Dunkin’ Donuts issue.  She has a snowball’s chance in hell of getting any job that has her dealing with live human beings.  A carefully executed social media and public relations strategy can help her rebuild her personal brand and show potential employers that she’s a changed person.

I wish her luck.