Journalism and Mass Communications, College of


Date of this Version

Fall 2020


Hachtmann, F. (2020). Serena, Inc.: Using Instagram to build brand equity after a crisis. Journal of Digital & Social Media Marketing, 8(2), 116–128.


Copyright © 2020 Henry Stewart Publications. Used by permission.


Serena Williams is one of the most successful athletes of all time. In addition to dominating the professional tennis circuit for decades, she has also built a massive business empire while becoming a first-time mother and wife. During this time of transition, Williams experienced a significant crisis moment during the 2018 US Open. Williams did not publicly acknowledge or apologise for the crisis and instead focused on a new sense of direction after living through the experience, much of which is documented and promoted on her Instagram account. This exploratory case study focuses on Serena Williams’s use of Instagram as a crisis communication strategy to repair her reputation and protect the value of her brand. The study centres on reputation repair in post-crisis communication, in particular on the rhetoric of renewal, which concentrates on the positive view of an organisation’s future instead of ongoing discussions about crisis and responsibility. An analysis of 421 of Williams’s Instagram posts over a two-year time span revealed that Williams used Instagram primarily to share private family moments, remind audiences about her legacy, and to build a business empire. The six themes that emerged suggest useful lessons for practitioners looking to use Instagram not only to mitigate a crisis but to build brand equity at the same time.