Can Louise Linton Recover From Her Instagram Gaffe? A Reputation Management Expert Weighs In
What she did right and wrong — and what she could learn from Ivanka Trump, according to Eric Schiffer.
Regardless of what side of the political aisle you're on, most everyone can agree that the response of Louise Linton, wife of United States Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, to a critic of her boastful, designer fashion-filled Instagram post, was unprofessional and immature, to say the least.
Though Linton has since apologized for both the post, in which she tagged several high-end fashion brands she was wearing while deplaning a private government aircraft, as well as the lengthy rant she posted in reply to a critic of her flashiness (which covered topics including taxes, personal sacrifice, children, Game of Thrones and “nice” people) there was no stopping the damage done as the story went viral.
“The number one rule when you have wealth is not to respond to trolls like you’re a modern day Cruella de Vil,” Eric Schiffer, CEO of Reputation Consultant Management whose clients include politicians and celebrities, tells The Hollywood Reporter of where things went wrong for Linton.
But once harm has been done, what can a high-profile political figure associated with the most divisive presidency in modern history do, aside from hiding under a rock? And more to the point, what did Linton do right and wrong?
Immediately following the blowback, in which she was lambasted for being braggadocious, insensitive and condescending — even, to use her own words, “adorably out of touch” — the 36-year-old deleted the Instagram post and turned all social media accounts to private, a move that Schiffer notes was likely dictated by Trump’s team of handlers. The radio silence in the hours that passed before she finally issued an apology late Tuesday evening reeked of a PR team in crisis mode, which in the age of social media, made the apology itself seem less authentic or meaningful.
“When you make an error like that, you need to apologize for the insensitivity and cruelty immediately and have people understand that this was a bad period for you and that you regret it,” said Schiffer. Linton’s one-sentence statement instead read like that of a child being forced to apologize after a sibling spat so they can be allowed dessert.
He adds, however, that in the age of social media, public anger recedes as quickly as it rises. Schiffer estimates it will be about one week’s time before the scandal is forgotten (likely replaced by another one that's Trump-related).
Should Linton’s name resurface again in the digital domain, however, the blunder will be dredged up with it — much in the same way her previous claim to public shame, a memoir titled In the Congo: One Girl’s Perilous Journey to the Heart of Africa, which was slammed as a “white savior” memoir, did yesterday.
For anyone in such a position looking to rebuild an image after such an egregious display of insensitivity, Schiffer suggests taking "a cue from Princess Diana," a woman who won over the world with her philanthropic service, and also happened to be hailed as one of the best-dressed women of the ‘90s, all without ever publically name-dropping her designer digs. (And she wore many of them.) "What Diana recognized was the importance of giving back," he added, noting how her genuine interest in the public good was easily understood by the people.
Given how deep of a hole Linton has dug herself, however, there's no telling how many philanthropic endeavors it would take to right her wrong in the eyes of the country.
First daughter and presidential advisor Ivanka Trump, who posts regularly on social media despite innumerable troll comments, some of them violent, is one member of Trump’s inner circle who Schiffer notes has handled the realm of social media well.
“Ivanka Trump is far more sophisticated in her awareness of her public image,” he said. “In having interacted with her, I don’t get a sense that at her core she’s a mean person. I may not agree with her politics completely, but I don’t think she has this reckless rhetoric like what we saw happen in the last 24 hours.”
Trump herself was at the epicenter of a controversy similar to Linton’s in which she was called “out of touch” and “tone deaf” after she posted a glitzy date night photo of herself in a shiny silver dress just hours after a photo of a Syrian refugee in a silver heat blanket went viral. In that situation, Schiffer said, Trump’s lack of response was the best response, because she refused to give the outcry credibility.
However, though she regularly posts photos of herself in fancy, designer attire, unlike Linton, Trump does not tag her fashion brands, and instead limits captions to vague commentary about her family or her work, which ultimately makes all the difference. She's creating an image that's aspirational, rather than one that taunts or shames those who have less. Said Schiffer, "[Linton] never got the memo that Trump’s core constituency in a large part is struggling and unemployed, and the last thing they want to see is diamonds flaunted."