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New Reputation Management Firm Seeks To Help Hollywood Get A Handle On Its Social Media Headaches

Hollywood has suffered more than its share of social media headaches of late.

Within days of collecting a Golden Globe award for best original screenplay, Green Book co-writer Nick Vallelonga found himself apologizing for a 2015 tweet in which he offered support for one of President Donald Trump’s conspiracy theories—that thousands of Muslims in New Jersey celebrated the attacks on 9/11.

Comedian Kevin Hart surrendered an opportunity to host the Oscars after years-old homophobic jokes resurfaced on Twitter. Last summer, Disney fired Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 director James Gunn after conservative commentators dredged up 10-year-old tweets in which he made jokes about rape and pedophilia.

One of Hollywood’s most prominent public relations firms, Principal Communications Group, has launched a business that seeks to identify social media and other land mines before they explode and that provides advice for how best to cope with any damage resulting from past acts.

“There is a huge void facing the industry in the face of two colliding forces—the industry’s rightful, mandated intolerance for harassment and bias; and the accessibility of everything from decades of social media to videos taken at a high school party,” said Melissa Zukerman, a Principal Communications partner.

The new venture, Foresight Solutions Group, combines Principal’s PR counseling with the technological expertise of cyberintelligence company Edgeworth Security, which scours social media and the internet’s dark recesses.

“From social media to interest group sites such as Reddit to blogs to news sites to forums—all these things all over the world we have access to and collect from to provide intelligence and situational awareness that has never existed before,” said Edgeworth Security Vice President Chad Brockway, who spent more than eight years working in the FBI’s cyber division.

Brockway said the firm has used cyberintelligence to identify threats to clients—from sending out an urgent alert when an individual went online and threatened gun violence, to helping another client identify a counterfeit operation. It even helped one U.S. corporation confidentially investigate the CEO of an overseas acquisition target to determine whether it should retain that executive once the deal closed.

“When someone walks into a meeting or interview room, they can put on a different face,” Brockway said. “The legacy data—what an individual puts out about themselves—it’s all available in open source information. We are able to put a direct assessment on who that individual was in real life, and the risks.”

Foresight will harness this technological expertise to conduct comprehensive research to flag any potential issues. Then it will recommend a course of action, which could include sensitivity and antibias training, or the involvement of an advocacy group such as GLAAD to assess whether a celebrity’s views have changed. The firm has a code of conduct that prohibits it from representing clients who are trying to cover up crimes or discriminatory acts.

Celebrities and studios always have been concerned about their images and sought ways to protect their privacy. Other firms offer variations of this service.

Redwood City, California-based ReputationDefender, a company that specializes in online reputation management and digital privacy, works with studio executives or celebrities who want to have their home addresses, phone numbers and other personal information expunged from sites that sell such information. Others are looking to bury negative information—scathing personal critiques, outright falsehoods or even past bankruptcies—in search results.

“Hollywood has always punched above its weight in terms of proportion of our business,” said Rich Matta, chief executive of ReputationDefender. “Reputations matter for their livelihoods.”

 

 

This article originally appeared on Forbes