Nearly two months after the very public downfall of one of YouTube's original stars, Colleen Ballinger, much is still to be said about what can be learned from her PR crises, public imaging, and how NOT to respond to criticism, no matter how famous you may be. Many top outlets have covered this story, but few have highlighted the important topic regarding the rhetoric and severely missing elegance principle that all elegant women should work to hone and perfect in the public eye or not.
Colleen Ballinger is by no means elegant, and that is not even considering her alter-ego, Miranda Sings. Colleen's star rose to worldwide fandom in the 2014-2016 era of YouTube, and was one of the first creators to become a celebrity outside of mainstream traditional methods of movie stardom backed by agencies. Famous for her casual, vulnerable personality and warm dispensation, her humor was childish and silly but crass leaving parents to think she was just another influencer on the rise. What could possibly go wrong with a character who couldn't speak correctly, over-lined her lips, and didn't understand basic life principles?
But in 2023, about 14 years into her career, it all fell apart. Why? Group chat screenshots were released showing Ballinger in discussions with under-aged fans about sexual topics, periods, Colleen bashing her then-husband, and worst of all, Colleen disseminating pornography to underaged fans-- images of her podcast co-host, no less.
A month after this all came to light, Colleen finally emerged online again with the most bizarre "apology video" to address the situation, with a ukulele in tow. Whatever she thought this was going to do to help her, did the exact opposite.
Within hours, her name was trending on twitter with millions of people chiming in about the tone-deafness and ridiculousness of her response, with some only then hearing about her for the first time,
In a video titled "Responding to Colleen Ballinger's Apology with My Ukulele," PR expert Molly McPherson dissected Colleen Ballinger's response to the crisis. Ballinger's 10-minute video apology attempted to address the allegations and clarify her stance but clearly there are several key issues that contributed to its lack of effectiveness which we can learn from as elegant women.
So what exactly did the PR Expert say went wrong with that video that made it just so cringy and fodder for memes?
Timing and Preparation: Ballinger's apology came after significant public backlash and several weeks of silence. It seemed a hastily recorded response, and raises some serious questions about the level of preparation and consideration given to the message. The fact that it rhymed points to some time spent crafting the song.
Entitlement and Tone-Deafness: One of the crucial points of criticism was Ballinger's perceived entitlement and tone-deafness. Despite being 36 years old, she appeared to position herself as young and out of touch with the concerns raised against her. She barely even touched on the allegations and called everyone calling her out as the "toxic gossip train".
Inadequate Team Management: Ballinger mentioned having a team of advisors, but it was evident that their counsel did not have the desired impact on her message.
Legal Considerations: The use of a ukulele in her response raises questions about copyright issues and whether it was a strategic move to limit the video's impact or make it less likely to go viral. A week later a "Colleen Ballinger" uploaded the song to Spotify and Apple Music, but her legal team argues this was a fan working under her name, and not from Ballinger herself.
What might Colleen have done differently? and what should she do next?
Swift and Genuine Response: Ballinger needs to issue a more genuine and heartfelt apology addressing the concerns raised, while acknowledging her mistakes. You may not know that she already did this exact move back in 2020 when the beginnings of these allegations were unfolding.
Professional Crisis Management Team: She should consider engaging a professional crisis management team to handle the situation effectively.
Education and Awareness: Ballinger should actively work towards educating herself on the gravity of the allegations and engage in awareness campaigns about online safety.
Transparency and Accountability: Being transparent about the actions she will take to rectify the situation and being accountable for her past behavior will be crucial in rebuilding trust.
Clearly, Colleen's response revealed more about her than the allegations and receipts ever did. Since posting the ukulele response three weeks ago, the video has racked up 13 million views and she hasn't been heard from since.
The important takeaway here is that the elegance principle of subtraction would have been useful here for Colleen. By obviously not engaging in group chats with minors nor being so open with her fans, she wouldn't not have been in this situation in the first place. An elegant woman responds to worthy criticism quickly, wholeheartedly, and still leaves an air of mystery about herself. By not revealing everything about yourself all the time, yet being transparent about what mistakes have been made, you'll set yourself up for success and be looked to as someone that is trustworthy and humble. In today's culture of victimhood and individualism, it is important to recognize how we each can take responsibly in our part in hurting someone else, even if we don't agree with their approach to sharing their pain.
This week reports have circulated that another group chat involving Ballinger and her inappropriate behavior has surfaced, and what her response will be this time remains to be seen.