Nobody’s perfect. Everyone from the freshest intern to the highest-paid CEO makes mistakes now and then. Yet many of them seem incapable of what comes next — apologizing and resolving to be better.
Recently, we’ve begun watching a YouTube channel called Observe. Hosted by professional body language analyst Logan Portenier, one of the channel’s primary content streams involves analyzing influencers’ apologies for everything from ignoring COVID restrictions to being party to unsavory behavior. Perhaps unsurprisingly, most of these apologies share a common theme.
They’re entirely insincere.
A BluePrint For An Ineffective Apology
If you’ve spent any time following the recent controversy surrounding YouTuber David Dobrik and his group “The Vlog Squad,” you’ve doubtless seen shades of this. As reported by Mashable, Dobrik has himself posted two separate apology videos. We’re not going to get into what transpired, as in addition to being triggering for victims of assault, it’s not our focus here.
If you’re interested in learning more, you can read the article we linked above. Instead, we’re going to look at what Dobrik did wrong in both cases. Because together, they form a very effective framework for how not to apologize for a brand crisis.
In Dobrik’s first video, which fans and critics have widely panned, his mistakes are glaringly evident.
- Sweeping it under the rug. The apology was posted to Dobrik’s Podcast channel, Views, rather than his official channel. The former has only 1.7 million subscribers as opposed to the latter’s nearly 20 million.
- Dodging the issue. Dobrik never directly addressed the allegations against his brand, instead speaking in vague terms about consent.
- No dialog allowed. Despite the video being titled Let’s Talk, Dobrik disabled comments.
- A lack of commitment. The total length of the video is only two and a half minutes. Given the seriousness of the allegations against The Vlog Squad, most felt that was nowhere near enough time.
- Obligation, not authenticity. Portenier refers to Dobrik’s apology as “hollow,’ noting from his body language that it’s clear Dobrik doesn’t seem to particularly care about rectifying the issue.
Unsurprisingly, this video was not well-received. After losing over 100,000 subscribers and multiple brand partnerships, Dobrik posted a second video a week later to his main channel. He did a lot of things right this time.
He owned the fact that he messed up. He at least appeared genuinely remorseful. He asserted that moving forward, he will be implementing checks and balances so that something like this need not happen again and has delisted the videos associated with the controversy.
But he still made mistakes.
- Too little, too late. Instead of getting ahead of the issue, Dobrik waited until he began suffering direct and severe consequences from the controversy. This has led some to assert that the YouTuber isn’t actually sorry that any of this happens, only that it’s directly impacted him.
- Poorly-staged. As some have noted, Dobrik went to great lengths to look pitiable, being close to tears, appearing disheveled, and filming his apology from the floor.
“If [Dobrik] had come out and immediately apologized and immediately went to the people, that would at least show that he [recognized and owned up] to his idiocy,” Portenier notes in his analysis of the second apology. “Dobrik’s apology is genuine [but] perhaps for the wrong reasons.”
Why Should Your Brand Care About Apologizing?
In Dobrik’s case, the degree to which he mismanaged his apology has damaged his brand, perhaps irreparably. Just two days after his second video, YouTube demonetized his channels. Insider reports that Dobrik has, as a result of the controversy, lost nearly everything (content warning: SA).
Per a study published by Science Daily, economists found that people are over twice as likely to forgive a brand that genuinely apologizes. As reported by The New York Times, when a doctor honestly admitted their mistakes to patients, they were significantly less likely to take legal action. A good apology, in other words, costs nothing. Ignoring a problem or failing to apologize, meanwhile, can cost you everything.
As for what’s involved in an effective apology, let’s refer back to Dobrik.
- Recognize the problem as soon as possible. The sooner you realize you messed up, the better.
- Don’t try to dodge accountability. Be honest about what went wrong and why.
- Show that you genuinely care. Don’t just say you’re sorry. Mean it.
- Resolve to be better. Explain what you’ll do to improve in the future, and don’t make promises you can’t keep.
- Explanations, not excuses. Don’t try to go into the reasons things went wrong.
Everyone makes mistakes, even the most prominent brands. The capacity to recognize and apologize for those mistakes can be the difference between repairing one’s reputation or damaging it beyond repair.