Crisis communication in the time of YouTube
As the resident Gen Z / millennial hybrid on the HMA team, I feel that it is my duty to report on a topic that is wildly popular among young people: vlogging. Vlogging, or video blogging, can be found all over YouTube, with its earliest forms dating back only as far as 2000.
Vlogging is a realm of elite social media influencers; some of whom let millions of people follow them throughout their daily lives. It can be much more intimate than other forms of social media because content is typically longer and more detailed than on other outlets. Not only do you get the content you are looking for, from makeup tips to travel recommendations, you also get the inside story on the influencer’s life and know them as personally as you know a close friend.
For many YouTubers, their lives are their entire brand and any choice they make, whether personal or professional, is subject to heavy scrutiny from their fan base. Because of this, many young vloggers in particular struggle to maintain their professional brand.
One current example is James Charles, a beauty mogul who got his start on the video-sharing website in 2015. His fame grew quickly, earning him enough credibility to land a spot as CoverGirl’s first ever “CoverBoy” in 2016. He has gone on to grow his YouTube channel to over 1.7 billion views and 16.6 million subscribers at its peak, in addition to skyrocketing his celebrity status.
James has recently become involved in a “feud” with longtime mentor Tati Westbrook, founder of Halo Beauty supplements and internet celebrity herself, after he endorsed a competing supplement line. What resulted was a 43 minute video from Tati, calling out her former friend and bringing his morals into question, criticizing his problematic dating choices.
Less than 24 hours later, James’ followers began to jump ship – 3 MILLION to be precise, including A-list celebrity friends like Kylie Jenner and Kim Kardashian. Tati on the other hand gained 2 million followers.
How does one respond to both a personal loss and professional crisis? More videos (obviously). James quickly released an apology video followed by another video addressing Tati’s claims. Tati eventually responded by changing her stance in ANOTHER response video, finally removing her original video from YouTube.
What did I learn from analyzing this situation? The “vlogosphere” is complex, layered and full of an extreme amount of detail. In the digital world of social media, instant responses are crucial in the time of a crisis, and James replied just in time. In the past few days, he has gained back almost a million followers.
A happy ending… until the next scandal.