The new PR crisis: cancel culture
This past March, influencer and designer of Something Navy, Arielle Charnas, was caught in a lie when she was spotted by her followers away from her New York City home in the Hamptons only a few days after testing positive for COVID-19. Arielle is no stranger to being controversial, so having witnessed a long history of Charnas’ slip-ups and scandals, her social media followers finally decided to cancel her.
Cancel culture refers to the popular practice of withdrawing support for public figures and companies after they have done or said something considered objectionable or offensive. Quite a simple definition for the amount of damage it can do to a brand or person’s reputation. However, who deserves to be canceled and who is worthy of a second chance has yet to be agreed upon.
2020 was a year of change where brands and influencers promised to be and do better; Bon Appetit, and Glossier are only some of the many brands who received backlash from past mistakes and are to this day trying to rebuild their relationships with followers. After months of exposing and calling out celebrities, brands, and influencers, some were forgiven, and some were left behind. So who is deserving of forgiveness, and where do we draw the line? It’s simple, an influencer and a brand’s power only goes as far as their followers allow it.
If you’re struggling to figure out how and where to draw the line, consider these three things.
Is this their first scandal? Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Making mistakes is human, and so is forgiving them, but an apology without change is useless. Think of it as a relationship with a friend who keeps hurting you. Would you still let this friend into your life after they hurt you multiple times? If you wouldn’t, don’t allow brands or influencers to manipulate you into forgiving them for nothing in return. Are they deserving of their platform? There are two types of influencers: those who do it for the money, and those who do it out of joy. Before forgiving them, ask yourself if their apology comes from their heart or their wallets. What hurts them more, losing you or their platform? If you aren’t their priority, then move along and find someone else to be influenced by, someone who cares about you and your relationship.
How damaging was their mistake? Everyone knows a joke is funny until someone gets hurt. So maybe this person’s mistake doesn’t personally affect you, but it affects others. Now the decision is up to you: will you let it slide and allow them to continue to harm people without being held accountable, or will you take a step back and pull your support from this person or brand?
Influencers are human after all, and so are the people behind the big-name brands like Glossier or Bon Appetit, so messing up is nothing but normal. However, it’s up to us to determine where we draw the line and stop letting inappropriate behaviors slide because no one is above the rules.
By Megan Blacher
Megan is a senior at San Diego State University, majoring in Journalism and Public Relations. After graduating in May 2021, Megan hopes to work in social media or crisis communication.