Posted on February 24, 2016, at 6:15 p.m.
by Lindsey Young
Our current era has been named the “digital age” and the “age of information.” Companies and organizations are constantly trying to find innovative ways to stand out in the vast clutter of information. Crises go viral in mere minutes, and no one has quite perfected their grasp on the digital world. While many organizations benefit from digitization, it is amazing how many are still underestimating the power of social media.
The most recent trend to take the Twitter world by storm is the #FreeKesha movement. In October 2014, pop singer Kesha Rose Sebert filed a lawsuit against her producer, Lukasz Gottwald or Dr. Luke, for sexual, physical, verbal and emotional abuse. Kesha claims that the abuse lasted for over a decade and was so violent that it led to her eating disorder and 2014 visit to rehab.
Kesha currently holds a six-album contract with Dr. Luke’s record company, Kemosabe, a Sony subsidiary. She has only recorded two of the six albums required in her contract, leaving four albums and many years of work remaining with Kemosabe. This past Friday, New York Supreme Court Justice Shirley Kornreich denied Kesha’s request to record songs outside of her contract. While this decision is not the completion of the case, it does mean that Kesha’s remaining legal journey will be difficult, causing the Internet to explode in uproar.
Over the weekend, millions of Kesha’s devoted followers took to Twitter to protest the case results. The hashtags #FreeKesha and #BoycottSony were trending across the nation. Several celebrities have also gone to Twitter to show their distaste for the verdict.
LadyGaga tweeted, “There are people all over the world who love you KeshaRose. And I can say truly I am in awe of your bravery.” Taylor Swift announced that she would be donating $250,000 to Kesha to help with any of her financial needs. Kesha’s fans even began a petition for a release from her contract that already has 190,000 signatures.
Dr. Luke’s attorney, Christine Lepera, accused Kesha and her fans of conducting a “trial by Twitter,” using a vicious smear campaign to ruin Dr. Luke’s and Sony’s reputations. Unfortunately for both Dr. Luke and Sony, a “trial by Twitter” is part of the digital age in which we currently live. While Kesha has expressed gratitude for her fans’ support, she in no way started or encouraged the hashtags.
Social media has a mind of its own and can ruin a company or individual’s reputation in just seconds. Sony has yet to make a statement to the Twitter world or Kesha’s fans, leaving it an easy target for abuse. If Sony continues to remain silent, Kesha’s supporters will grow into an unbeatable force with the help of celebrity endorsement. Sony’s reputation could receive irreparable damage from this conversation.
Individuals and companies alike need to remember the importance of brand reputation and the almighty power of social media. The best way to repair a crisis is with communication, a lesson many companies, including Sony, need to learn. In this social media age, reputation managers should remember the influence of communication and stop underestimating the power of a hashtag.