You’d think by now that people would be aware that they need to be careful with what they say online. But evidently, that isn’t always the case.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about YouTubers and how many apology videos I see on my timeline day in and day out. In one sense, I do feel bad for them (people make mistakes – but mistakes that you or I might make are forgiven much more easily than the mistakes of those with a high profile and following, like YouTubers.) But then again, in the same breath, I do think: you’re an internet star, surely you must know to an extent how to manage your Public Relations – to be careful with what you say online and to retrace any harmful things you may have said in the past and remove them, or better yet don’t say or do them in the first place.
May I steal your attention for a moment…
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YouTuber PR is (or it should be) a thing
PR isn’t just for brands. It’s for people too. We’ve seen this recently with the PM’s ‘dancing queen stunt‘ – even though you can’t see PR happening most of the time, it’s always there. And that goes for YouTubers too.
A lot of them though, I’m assuming, don’t have anybody managing their public image. And maybe that’s where they’re messing up.
Apology/explanation videos are commonplace for YouTubers nowadays. In fact, It’s hard to find a big online star without one – literally. And this is mostly down to improper PR knowledge of course. You can’t blame them, they’re not experts in this, and this is why some online stars can quickly become their own PR demons.
Reputation management is so, so intricate. One tiny mistake can damage your public image and moreover, your career. And even if the latter doesn’t happen – you can still be sure to lose a lot of supporters and subscribers if you make a blunder; that’s basically an unwritten rule of vlogging – it always happens (I see it happen all the time).
The most common example of this is a (hypothetical, but it has actually happened as you’ll find out below) high profile vlogger’s old online activity resurfacing. Perhaps they said something back in the early 2010s when they weren’t famous, that has come back to haunt them all these years later. Though they probably don’t still have the same views – they did at one point and that’s all people care about. It’s shocking and it makes for good news (the more offensive – the better to the press). To the most of us, it’s just a story and it’ll pass us by in a few days, but to the vlogger in the firing line, it’s their whole career that’s at risk at the hands of a simple regrettable tweet or status update.
This kind of thing makes me squirm the more I see it. From a person who’s very interested in celebrity PR, It’s honestly cringe-worthy how often this happens when it really shouldn’t. The reality is, there’s always going to be someone out there with a fine-toothed comb waiting to expose these high profile bloggers. And in the same breath, there’s also a lot of YouTube stars who ‘do’ before thinking – and this always lands them in hot waters too.
Let’s look at some common examples of when YouTubers have been a total PR nightmare. (Prepare for the facepalms).
Case Study #1 – Logan Paul
Ugh. Anybody who knows me knows my opinion of Logan Paul. It’s not just his ‘oops I stumbled into a suicide forest, let me film this for the world to see’ video that’s problematic – it’s most of them! I’m not going to go into his racism and downright disrespect that’s depicted amongst his other videos. The simple fact of the matter is, I’ll never be a fan of this massive man-child and I’m not afraid to say it. Oh, and also, he’s the perfect example of how not to behave online if you want to upkeep a good image.
I wrote a (very old – so mind if it’s not my best work) blog post about Logan Paul and *that* video. The one that caused him to log out of the socialsphere and then come back a week or two later with a classic apology video.
For those who don’t remember, or weren’t aware at the time, Logan Paul uploaded a controversial video to YouTube wherein he ‘stumbled’ into the so-called suicide forest, Aokigahara, in Japan. Footage of unfiltered people who’d turned to taking their own life was uploaded on his channel and he quite rightly received a lot of backlash for it. It was covered far and wide in the national press, and Logan quickly removed the video and signed off from social media.
The video paints the perfect picture of how YouTubers can get it so so wrong, and how this can sometimes damage their career beyond repair. It’s the perfect example of terrible PR and demonstrates just how important crisis comms is for high profile people.
#Logang4Never – this is NOT how you do PR.
Case Study #2 – Zoella
I like Zoella a lot, but she makes for a perfect case study for this blog. She’s the epitome of what can go wrong when you’re not careful on social media.
Like I mentioned above, there’s always going to be people who’ll scour social media for any chance to defame these online stars, and this is exactly what happened to Zoella last year. A number of tweets that dated from 2009 to 2012 (that have now been deleted of course) were unearthed and splashed across social media for the whole world to see. And of course, word soon spread like wildfire, given just how well-known Zoella is.
In amongst the already-there debacle around her controversial advent calendar, she was called out for”fat shaming” and being homophobic. “Fat chav”, “skank” and “tramp” are some of the phrases that could be found on her Twitter account, which now, of course, has a much higher following than it would have had back then. (Why you wouldn’t just start a new Twitter when you become a little-bit-famous is beyond me).
Zoella apologised of course with a, you guessed it, YouYube video. Commenting that she “would never say those things now”. She also mentioned on Twitter that “obviously that is not who I am today and I’d like to think I’m a little older and wiser! I’m not perfect and I’ve never claimed to be, I’m only human!”
A fair enough statement, but was it a little too late? When you say things like this online, they never go away – simple as. Though the tweets have been deleted, the screenshots haven’t and they’re still floating around for the world to see. When some people think of Zoella now, surely this is the thing that they’ll think about above everything else. This is another great example of how damaging bad-PR can be for your image and your personal brand.
Vloggers – delete your old tweets that can be misconstrued and don’t be offensive online. It’s really that easy!
Case Study #3 – Alfie Deyes
The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree (can that phrase be used for relationships too?) with vloggers it would seem. Zoe’s also-famous boyfriend, Alfie Deyes also executed a classic PR blunder not too long ago.
Does anyone remember the super stupid living off £1 a day video?
There’s a lot of reasons why this ‘experiment’ wasn’t cool. But the main reason is that a lot of families do actually find themselves living off as little as a £1 a day *a famous YouTuber somewhere gasps.* So yeah, making a joke of the whole affair is incredibly offensive and belittling. (This guy actually gets upset about having to drink water from the tap – it’s incredibly painful to watch).
And let’s not get into the fact that he went shopping and spent way more than £1, completely invalidating the whole ‘task’…
Anyway, this video earned Alfie Deyes a lot of much-deserved backlash. Which meant that he quickly removed the video and issued an apology video (oh my gosh really?). Branding himself as f*cking stupid. Well, you said it not me…
This is yet another classic example of what can happen when you don’t think things through. I really doubt Alfie had any bad intentions here, but nevertheless, his challenge upset a lot of people. And quite understandably too.
PR 101: always risk assess your ideas.
Case Study #4 – Laura Lee
The award for most believable apology video does go to Laura Lee. But then again, her PR blip was perhaps the worst.
Similarly to Zoella, Laura was also outed for her past tweets – but unlike Zoella, they were a lot worse. Totally racist and entirely despicable to say the least.
There’s honestly not much she could have done in this situation apart from hold her hands up and say ‘I’m wrong’. And to be fair to her, that is what she did.
In her apology video, Laura Lee also implored fans to focus their anger on her, not her family. She claimed her Mum had been on the receiving end of death threats and harassing phone calls. Once again reiterating just how important it is to maintain your public image.
They say that numbers don’t lie, so just to prove how important PR is. Take a look at Laura Lee’s Subscriber count amid the, well, shitstorm:
I’m not a big follower of this YouTuber, so I don’t actually know whether the damage was longstanding. (Readers, help me out, does she even have a career anymore?). Nevertheless, this whole scenario is the pinnacle of poor PR, and just reiterates over and over and over again how vloggers can often be at the forefront of their own downfalls.
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