Turn a crisis into an opportunity by following the Try Guys example.
The Try Guys have emerged as some of the most famous breakout stars from the social media conglomerate BuzzFeed. Made up of Ned Fulmer, Keith Habersberger, Zach Kornfeld and Eugene Lee Yang, the Try Guys try out a wide variety of things, like cooking without a recipe and sewing without instructions, to name a few, to entertain their audience.
The group created a personal YouTube channel and started their own company, 2nd Try LLC, about four years ago. While all of their content performs pretty well, with their channel having over two billion views as of writing this article, what made them explode in popularity was the recent cheating scandal surrounding Ned Fulmer. Let’s take a look at this scandal, how the company handled it and what lessons it offers to other startup founders about crisis management.
The nitty-gritty of the cheating scandal
On September 27, the Try Guys released a statement on all their social media handles that Ned Fulmer would be removed from the company after a thorough internal review. Even before the Try Guys came out with an official statement, fans had already been speculating that Fulmer had cheated on his wife with one of the company’s employees on Reddit. There had been posts proving that Fulmer had attended a Harry Styles concert with the employee. Post this, pictures surfaced of Fulmer kissing said employee at a club in New York.
Once the Try Guys made their statement, Fulmer came out saying that he had been in a consensual workplace relationship and would now focus his attention on his marriage and his children. What made the scandal bigger was that Fulmer was a self-proclaimed “wife guy”. Ever since his BuzzFeed days, Fulmer had a habit of frequently bringing up his wife in videos. Fulmer’s wife, Ariel, also came out with a statement, requesting people to respect their privacy for the sake of the couple’s children.
What we can learn from the situation
This situation is a great case study in crisis management. Crisis management refers to handling an unprecedented situation that can adversely affect people, property or business processes. If you fail to deal with emergencies strategically, it can hurt your hard-earned reputation, and, in the worst-case scenario, your company may not survive it.
There are three main phases of crisis management—pre-crisis, crisis response and post-crisis. Let’s look at what the Try Guys did in each of these phases.
Pre-crisis is when you discover a potential threat to the company’s reputation. At this stage, the company’s public relations (PR) experts come up with a plan of action to deal with the threat.
The Try Guys revealed their pre-crisis plan of action in a video they released on October 4. In it, they discussed how they found out about the situation in early September and had since been working with employment lawyers, human resources (HR) and their PR team to find a way to address it. They shared that they had assigned an HR professional to review the facts post and concluded that Fulmer needed to be dismissed from the organization.
At this stage, the company takes action to handle the crisis. Here, it is crucial to address the situation swiftly but to carefully consider what you will say and how you will say it.
As fans had begun speculating about the situation on Reddit, the posts about Fulmer’s affair were progressively becoming more detailed, with the former fiancé of the employee involved releasing screenshots showing proof of the affair. At this stage, the Try Guys knew they had to get an official response out, so they released a written statement on September 27 across all their social media handles. This statement reads, “Ned Fulmer is no longer working with the Try Guys. As a result of a thorough internal review, we do not see a path forward together. We thank you for your support as we navigate this change.”
The video statement they released on October 4 could also be considered a step in this direction. In it, the Try Guys laid out actionable steps for what they had done so far—removing Fulmer from videos through editing and choosing not to release certain videos because of his involvement. They also discussed the steps they took to handle it and what fans can expect from their future content.
Once the crisis ends, the organization must take time to reflect on the situation and look at what went wrong and why it happened to prepare the company for future crises. Here, the company also provides follow-up information on the crisis and details the recovery process. The Try Guys mentioned in their video that they would change how they operate and address the situation further as time passes.
Since the video statement discussed mainly their legal standpoint and expressed very little about their emotional reaction, the Try Guys also made a dedicated podcast episode where they opened up about how they felt hurt by the whole situation. In the podcast, they answered questions about the direction of their future content and whether they would go back and edit Fulmer out of videos from the past.
The Try Guys’ response has been praised by crisis communication experts, with people saying that their tone and demeanor in their video statement was precisely what their fans would want to see from them.
When it comes to cheating scandals, the internet tends to be harsher toward the women involved. Thus, I believe the Try Guys also deserve credit for requesting people to exercise kindness and indirectly asking people to stop bashing the employee involved. They also never mentioned who the employee was in any of their statements. While they might have done this to avoid defamation claims, they also never gave clues as to who it could be, thereby curbing further speculation about the incident.
Given how heavily this issue has been discussed, so much so that the famous American TV Show Saturday Night Live made a sketch about it, it has exposed their YouTube channel to a broader audience. According to social media analytics platform Social Blade, the Try Guys’ YouTube channel had been stuck around the 7.8 million subscriber mark till September and has reached 8 million subscribers as of writing this article.
So far, it seems the Try Guys are benefitting from the scandal because of their swift and balanced response. Hopefully, this gives you a clear idea of how to go about crisis management next time your business encounters a tough situation. This incident should be a wake-up call to all startup founders to put more effort into crisis management because your business might even emerge stronger than before if you can remedy any disruptive situations effectively.
Header Image Courtesy of The Try Guys’ YouTube Channel