When old tweets come back to haunt influencers

Turns out, it's not a death sentence.

Claudia Oshry (Photo credit: Getty Images)
Claudia Oshry (Photo credit: Getty Images)

After old tweets came back to haunt social media star Claudia Oshry, also known as the Girl With No Job, Oath canceled her social media show and she lost deals with major marketers such as Coca-Cola. However, experts say the Girl With No Job has not seen her last paycheck – if she proceeds with caution, Oshry will eventually be forgiven.

Gene Grabowski, a partner at Kglobal, says that if Oshry follows a specific formula, brands could work with her again as soon as 2019.

"Once you are outed, the only cure is an apology and time," he explains. "You have to let a decent interval of time pass and demonstrate in that time that you are responsible."

PRWeek readers agree with Grabowski. In a poll on prweek.com, the vast majority (70%) of 227 respondents said brands should not drop Oshry; nearly 30% said they should.

After screenshots of since-deleted tweets in which Oshry made jokes about Muslims – some dating back to 2012 -- started circulating on social media last week, she posted a video on Instagram addressing the matter and apologizing.

"Some really disgusting, vile, stupid tweets of mine resurfaced. I need to say how sorry I am. I was a dumb kid. I was 16, I thought I was being funny and cool on Twitter. It's not. I am not racist. I can’t believe I even have to say that," she said in the video.

To stage a comeback, it’s vital for influencers to be authentic, experts say. An influencer must show contrition and demonstrate that his or her apology is about more than a lost paycheck, says T.J. Winick, VP at Solomon McCown. Grabowski adds that it is not enough to apologize and explain what happened; Oshry must "show a path forward."

"If you show the American public you are sorry for what you did, you understand what you did, and then you show a path forward, people will look for reasons to forgive," says Grabowski. "It sounds old fashioned. There is no magic bullet; it is forgiveness and time."

One step on the journey to forgiveness is demonstrating empathy for the group of people offended by the influencer’s words or actions. Kelley Heider, VP of innovation and social media at SSPR, says Oshry should conduct thoughtful outreach to Muslims, interview people within that community, or let them ask her questions. The influencer should challenge herself to learn and grow from this experience. However, it cannot be seen as a publicity stunt, Heider adds.

"[Oshry] needs to raise awareness for the issue she exacerbated," says MWW chief digital strategist Parker Ray. "She must show: I have changed my ways, here is how I have changed my ways, I am going to use my influence for good and raise awareness for organizations, for other influencers in this space, and build up those relationships again and show that she is sorry and on the right side now."

Stories like Oshry’s will become more common as brands align themselves with YouTube and Instagram celebrities, people whose views are not known to the general public. When Trevor Noah joined The Daily Show in 2015, jokes he had made years before on social media resurfaced that were quickly labeled "anti-Semitic" or "sexist." More recently, YouTube star Zoella came under fire late last year when tweets she had posted in 2010 mocking obese and gay people were rediscovered.

"Brands should do forensic digging on everything [an influencer has said on social]," says Tess Finkle, CEO of Metro Public Relations. "Hire an agency to get a sense of someone’s digital footprint to see if it is positive or negative."

Grabowski has a more blunt piece of advice for Oshry so she can support herself while she plots her comeback: get a real job. 

"Comebacks are famous in America," he says.

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