By: Kayla Polansky
In today’s digital age, it can be easy to post mistakes with the click of a button. At the ICON PRSSA National Conference, Anne Marie Mitchell, associate professor at Columbia College of Chicago, spoke about how modern-day Youtubers handle communication crises.
Mitchell began her career as a speech writer and soon got into publications afterwards. Before beginning her research on the topic, Mitchell made sure to watch no apology videos beforehand. She said that theory relied heavily on examining the aspects of digital apology videos.
One public relations theory Mitchell closely evaluated was the Image Repair Theory proposed by William Benoit. This theory was Mitchell’s starting point in her research and has since utilized this theory in her teachings of public relations.
“This is what got me super excited about doing this research,” she said. “I was going to be able to take this theory and apply it to social media, or ultimately, the next generation.”
This theory breaks down three vital elements that must happen in order for a crisis to occur:
Research showed from Mitchell’s studies that audience members who had already followed the creator were more likely to hold forgiveness. Additionally, her research found that the majority of creators apologized for a content problem (42%) and racism (19%), and the majority of creators were male and emphasized a natural look.
While sharing some interesting information about theory, Mitchell also tied back to the basis of research to answer the simple question: Why YouTube?
According to research, YouTube already had an estimated 37 million channels in 2010 and 22,000 channels that had already reached one million subscribers. And while some may think that the platform is just for adults, it also caters to the younger audience. According to Mitchell’s research, 29% of those aged 8 through 12 aspire to become a YouTuber.
Mitchell began the first part of her research in the spring of 2020 during the start of the Coronavirus pandemic. While sitting at home and evaluating apology videos, she explained how she paid attention to key aspects, such as eye contact, lighting, video production, makeup and the overall message.