An example of crisis communications on social media
Case Study: Wagatha Christie
In the first of Whitehouse’s brand-new reputation management series, we’ll be exploring a story that has equally gripped and entertained the nation since it first broke in 2019: Wagatha Christie.
The Story – Tabloids, WAGS and Court Cases
For those who don’t follow bizarre celebrity wars as closely as I do, the ‘Wagatha Christie’ case refers to a feud between footballers’ wives Coleen Rooney and Rebekah Vardy. In 2019, Rooney posted on her Instagram story that she had suspicions a close friend was leaking stories about her and her family to The Sun. She had her suspicions and created fake stories which were only visible to Vardy. These stories were then published – meaning the leak could only have come from Vardy (and spawning the now famous phrase ‘… It was Rebekah Vardy’s account’).
Vardy steadfastly stood by her innocence, stating that others who had access to her social media account could have logged in and seen the stories. This year, Vardy took Rooney to court for libel, claiming that Rooney’s reveal post has damaged her reputation and impacted her personal life. However, the court ruled in Rooney’s favour – leaving Vardy’s reputation in tatters.
Reputation Management Process & Lessons Learnt
So, what can we learn from all this?
- People and the Press: The impact of a well-woven story
Rooney has proven herself to be a brilliant dramatic writer. She could have simply posted in one shot that Vardy had been leaking stories about her to the press, and she knows because she shared fake stories with only her. She didn’t do this, she took her audience on the whole journey from start to finish – building up intrigue and anticipation across her posts until the final reveal. There are hundreds of different ways to tell the same story. But if you’re looking to make noise about an announcement and make sure it has a real impact on your audience, it must be properly crafted.
- Online Reputation Management: The power of social media
Businesses who think a situation like this doesn’t apply to them as they’re not big social media stars: beware. Social media is where an ember can turn into a blaze in a mere hour – it doesn’t matter if you’re on social media or how big your following is, your brand can still be talked about freely in the digital landscape and claims and stories can escalate. Whether you have 100 or 1 million followers, you need to monitor social media and manage your online reputation.
- Crisis Communications Planning: Get your facts straight
The judge ruled in Rooney’s favour and stated that there was enough evidence pointing to it being Vardy and her publicist who had leaked the stories to the press. The court case hinted that Vardy and her team had even destroyed evidence in the form of online photos. The lesson here? Facts don’t lie – take account of your evidence for your own analysis and, most importantly, ownership. Trying to cover your tracks (especially digitally) is far too risky. Better to be safe and invest in a bullet proof Crisis Communications Plan.
- Damaging reputations: Know when to back down
For Vardy, there was clearly evidence against her which proved that she was the culprit. And yet she still decided to pursue the case. The fact of this court case wasn’t about whether she did it or not – it was about whether Rooney’s reveal had damaged Vardy irreparably – yet this still isn’t what anyone’s talking about; we’re still talking about whether she was guilty in the first place. No number of counter-cases can take the spotlight off a story this big and entertaining, and this attempt at retribution has only bought this original story back into everyone’s minds and damaged Vardy’s reputation even further.
What is Reputation Management and how can we help?
For more information on how Whitehouse Communications can support your brand reputation management, or crisis communications please contact the Director of Communications Mayar Raouf at email@example.com.