Since the day he was discovered on YouTube, Justin Bieber’s star power has been undeniable. The Canadian singer-songwriter has consistently been named one of Forbes’ most influential celebrities, has one of the strongest social media followings in the industry, and is consistently supported by his faithful flock of “Beliebers.” However, Justin Bieber’s image has come a long way from the innocent, baby faced kid singing “One Less Lonely Girl.” In recent years, the 21-year-old’s name has been in the media for far less flattering reasons. His string of bad decisions include drug usage, public urination, vandalism, violence towards others, and a DUI arrest that served as the epitome of the star’s fall from grace.
While these offenses and bad behaviors finally began to alienate members of Bieber’s fan base, the truth is that he is back on top with hit singles off his upcoming album Purpose. Strategically, each song dropped at the beginning of the weekend and proved to be the party hit blasted on replay long enough for fans to have memorized the lyrics by Monday. These days, it seems that you can barely go five minutes without hearing ‘Where are U Now?,’ ‘What Do You Mean?,’ or ‘Sorry’ on the radio! but how was he able to make such a comeback after his image was so damaged? The answer comes back to the power of a successful PR campaign.
Just as no company is immune to the threat of public relations crises, celebrities’ images are constantly scrutinized and under fire. A PR crisis exists when an event or series of events threatens the integrity and reputation of a company or, in this case, celebrity. While not every crisis will not ruin a reputation or brand, the bigger PR threat is that every misstep increases the chances of long-lasting harm to one’s reputation. Apparently Bieber has done everything right. The restoration of his image has only been possible through the efforts of a successful PR campaign that began with mitigating the damage through a sincere apology. In various interviews, he recognized his problematic behavior and apologized to his fans for his lack of judgement. However, accepting guilt was just the first step in Bieber’s image restoration process.
It’s not enough to just apologize for his behavior, he has to start getting good press for a change. In his case, and in many cases, authenticity and sincerity go a long way with media and the general public, alike, during a time of image crisis. For example, Bieber’s tear-filled VMA performance humanized the untouchable star, which quickly reminded his fans and critics that behind the perfect hair, million-dollar smile and fancy footwork, there’s a REAL person who’s capable of being remorseful. In a way, people got another glimpse of the young innocence that served him so well when he first exploded onto the music scene. It was at this moment the negative PR tide began to turn, and fans started accepting the heartthrob’s heartfelt apologies. Since his songs have dropped, Bieber has cleaned up his act and attempted to avoid tabloid attention for anything other than the music. For Bieber, this means a vibrant return music and renewed dedication to his eagerly awaiting audience. Let’s hope he can stay the course.
Bottom Line: When a company or person are in the midst of an image crisis that’s threatening to tarnish their reputation, it’s important to remember the following:
- Take responsibility for mistakes you could have controlled
- Be humble, and explain how you’ll avoid these mistakes in the future
- Be human by showing sincerity and emotion when it’s appropriate
- Take action. Words are helpful, but showing modified and improved behavior/actions will have a longer-lasting effect
- Get back to work. Remind people of what you do best, because everybody loves a comeback!