5 Golden Rules for Brands on HOW TO handle Scandal Backlashes caused by Influencers / KOLs in Malaysia【Crisis Communication Tactics】

5 Golden Rules for Brands on HOW TO handle Scandal Backlashes caused by Influencers / KOLs in Malaysia 【Crisis Communication Tactics】

Influencer Marketing is mushrooming worldwidely, especially in Malaysia. What is Influencer? Actually is a “who”, who are they? Why do brands nowadays choose to engage them for marketing purposes instead of using traditional artists or other marketing channels? Are they that “influential”? An Influencer, normally being known as KOL (key opinion leader) in most of the Asian countries like Malaysia, Singapore and Hong Kong; who holds the magical power of having a say in their followers’ mindset. It’s utterly vital for brands to apprehend that this statement links to customer’s buying decisions and also their product sales directly. Hence, Influencer Marketing is undoubtedly one of the most effective marketing ways for brands to reach out to more audiences. But what if your influencer went rogue? And it deteriorates your brand’s image and reputation?

Here are 5 Golden Rules that will help you, as a brand to tackle Influencers / KOLs Scandal Backlashes:


1) Talk to your Influencer (or their PR team)

  • Seek first to understand the situation and where they intend to go next
  • Make sure that you have all of the necessary information at your disposal to formulate a workable plan of action

First and the foremost, you have to reach out to the implicated party in no time. Some KOLs work as a one-man production but some may have a bigger influencer agency behind them. If your KOLs are the former ones, you’ll need to have a more critical plan in order to come to grips with this sudden issue. The rationale being is that the said KOLs might not have the abstract law and legal information, as well as judgement on this. Though action has to be taken real quick before any upcoming negative publicity on your brand, you’ll still have to take your time and efforts on grasping the whole story of the backlashes respectively.

What if the Influencer/KOL doesn’t reply and goes MIA?

For this case, it’ll be great if you reach out to any of that influencer’s close contact via all of his or her social media accounts. In the meantime, brands should also make a coherent and rational plan as the plan B. Time is always CRUCIAL!

2) Devise a strategy

  • Take responsibility and don’t try to cover up the PR crisis in order to avoid worsening the damage
  • Identify the best approach to put things right or rectify the damage
  • Willing to accept all feedback and input from the public

Now that you have a set plan of action, please get yourself ready for any possible events or catastrophes that might happen next right after you execute the said plan. Brands have to accept all kinds of voices or noises from the public. Nobody will enjoy being the culprit, be that as it may, brands have to try their best to avoid dodging the responsibility. Shirking any responsibility will definitely magnify the negative issues. 

List out a series of pre-crisis SOP.

In order to play in the forthcoming war, you need strong weapons. Brands should list out a list of possible situations, scenarios or offensive questions thrown by the public. Like how the old cliche quotes, “to repair the house before it rains”. With these precautionary manoeuvres, it enables you to react to the public in the shortest time.

3) Make your own brand’s standpoint clearly

  • Make a press release to this decision with a polite and empathetic tone

It’s time to make a pivotal decision on whether to stick to your influencer. Brands need to appraise the level of severity of the scandal backlash caused by the influencer. After the decision-making, brands need to release an immediate official announcement via their social media accounts. You may need to let the influencer know about your decision beforehand in order to avoid causing any other unwanted negative conflicts.

What is the ideal press release length?

Keep it short but informative with a clear-cut title. “The more you speak, the more mistakes you make”, brands have to be straight to the point for their clarifications. If it’s still too hard for you to draft, you can keep the 5 Ws in mind which are who, what, where, when and why. Most importantly, keep your tone down and professional.

4) Monitor the situation

  • After releasing the official announcement, brands will surely receive a lot of feedback and reaction from whoever saw it.
  • Be it positive ones or negative ones, your team has to stay alert and keep it on track during this crisis response stage.

How can we react to negative comments from the public?

Don’t get panic-stricken, deliberate thoughtfully before taking any action.  “Least said, soonest mended”, unless it’s necessary for a riposte, else don’t make any impulsive reply. If it links to a more drastic issue, seek professional help from lawyers or any other related authorities.

5) Review and learn from the incident

  • Post-crisis is a phase for brands to finalize everything, follow-up for anything promised to the public (i.e. payment refund) and summarize all into a learning handbook.
  • In order to gird your loin for the next backlash issue (if any), the whole process of this influencer backlash plight has to be anatomized for what should be kept and what should be polished up. 

Any tips to prevent Influencers/KOLs’ Scandal Backlashes?

Work on your Influencer Engagement Strategy. Brands really have to observe the KOLs based on their online presence or personality, content and who (like their close loops or friends, brands/sponsors etc) they engage with. Wondering which KOLs should you engage next? U Channel Artists from our U Creative Marketing might be the ones! Contact us now!

Case Study 1 : Haoren x Lovely Doll [ 'Brownface' Backlash ] Case Study 1 : Haoren x Lovely Doll [ ‘Brownface’ Backlash ]

Case Study 1 : Haoren x Lovely Doll [ ‘Brownface’ Backlash ]

  • A Malaysian musician/YouTuber, Haoren has released the music video of White Doll with the use of ‘brownface’ to promote a skin whitening product. Many critics protested the use of brownface stigmatising people with dark skin and marked them as a negative remark. This incident of him using the racist theatrical makeup has dragged him into this backlash as blackface carries the notion of making fun of Black People.

Crisis Management:

  • Be Proactive, Be Transparent, Be Accountable
  • “I want to listen to everyone’s opinions, and welcome everyone to give your valuable opinions,” – Haoren.
  • Haoren later took down the MV and posted an explanation of removing the MV
  • Extending a heartfelt apology always WORKS
  • He later released another MV titled “Lovely Doll” with lyrics and visuals showcasing his genuine apology for his actions.
  • The MV hit #1 Trending on YouTube at that time

Case Study 2 : YBB (Yang Bao Bei) x Instababe Malaysia [ 'Suicide, Gambling & Deception' Saga] Case Study 2 : YBB (Yang Bao Bei) x Instababe Malaysia [ ‘Suicide, Gambling & Deception’ Saga]

Case Study 2 : YBB (Yang Bao Bei) x Instababe Malaysia [ ‘Suicide, Gambling & Deception’ Saga]

  • An influencer/YouTuber named Yang Bao Bei had attempted to suicide. This news has brought up her other overwhelming negative scandals of being deceitful by selling her branded handbags and YouTube channel to numerous victims at once, and gambling habit (many more).

Crisis Management:

  • Be QUICK to clear things up
  • “Hereby clarify that all branded bags sold by YBB are not related to our social media influencers agency. We’re only in charge of some of her sponsorship/job projects. As of now, all YBB’s jobs will be halted temporarily.” – Instababe Malaysia.
Enjoyed reading our Influencer/Social Media Marketing tips? Do stay tuned for other blog posts.