Daniel Sacerio|Sep 22, 2020

This blogpost is part II of a two-part series on outrage culture. Please click here to read part I of the series, where the questions of “what is outrage culture and why it matters” were explored.

Outrage culture can be defined as “a set of behaviors, usually displayed on social media, that aim to hold individuals and groups accountable for alleged political and social transgressions through public shaming.” Much like the term “culture,” “outrage culture” is also a multi-layered umbrella term for a set of actions. In part I, I discussed the three main types:

  1. Cancel culture or call-out culture, a form of boycott where “someone” is thrust out of social or professional circles – either on social media, in the real world, or both. 
  2. Doxing (also spelled doxxing), which refers to the research, and in turn broadcasting, of personally identifiable information about an individual. 
  3. Negative reviews steeped in outrage are when followers are urged to give negative reviews in order to punish corporate interests or businesses they dislike. 

As discussed in part I, these actions devalue the importance of sharing ideas and tolerating different opinions. Due to this devaluation, the majority of cogent conversations and dialogues have ceased online, where nuance no longer exists and we’re left with an angry mob that has no regard for the repercussions of its actions.

Can you pre-empt online outrage?

The short answer is a big #yes.

Integrated communications professionals need both a good offense and defense to address the challenges of today’s outrage culture. Most of my rbb colleagues know that I’m a huge basketball fan and using some basketball lingo will simplify explanations on how to mitigate and avoid outrage culture all together. 

Pre-game film and scouting: All successful basketball coaches take the time to prepare their team by watching film from previous games to address issues on both sides of the court. They will also watch film of their opponents to prepare a gameplan on how to expose their strengths or weaknesses. The first step to navigating the waters of outrage culture is staying on top of cultural trends and avoiding public outrage all together and understanding your main audiences in order to get a sense of friction points between a brand or organization and the public. Friction points are usually the spark to a full-blown onslaught.

Defense: As the old saying goes “defense wins championships.” Well, in the case of outrage culture, defense comes in the form of analysis and the development of crisis plans and social media playbooks. In general, the nitty-gritty of “who said what” truly isn’t at the crux of outrage, the importance is to study the patterns of outrage within your industry over the last three years and to cement these findings in a comprehensive crisis plan and social media playbook. Through analysis of aforementioned friction points, crisis communications plans and social media playbooks can many times pre-empt and de-escalate online outrage.

Offense: While defense may win championships, you can’t really win without scoring. In the world of outrage culture, offense would be to implement these actions in the crisis plans and social media playbooks, but to also proactively monitor your audiences through listening tools. Monitoring should be predictive and provide insights that can help avoid chaotic situations. Knowing what your audience is saying about your brand or organization and monitoring specific topics can help you get ahead or diminish an outrage scenario.

Outrage culture isn’t going anywhere. As communications professionals, preparing our clients for it, through an offensive and defensive approach is essential and the ability to do this well is a game-changer in this increasingly combative digital environment.

Click here to learn more about Risk & Reputation Advisors. R&RA is a division of rbb Communications that focuses on corporate reputation planning, preparedness and management. With decades of experience, cutting-edge digital acumen and an outcomes-focused approach, our senior-level team helps organizations ensure they are prepared to successfully weather any storm. We take our work seriously because we know that reputation impacts have real outcomes for real people.


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