As long as influencers are around, you can bet that influencer apologies will be, too. While brands are increasingly relying on influencers to reach their target market in more authentic ways, influencers don’t always, well, hit the mark.
Influencers are still humans and humans make mistakes. So it’s no surprise that even some of the most popular YouTubers out there have had to apologize to their subscribers and viewers.
Influencers typically apologize for their content when they receive negative comments and backlash. For popular influencers, an apology is the most respectable thing to do and helps them take public accountability for their actions.
If you analyzed influencer apologies across a wide variety of genres, chances are you’d find commonalities among them. In this roundup, we’ve gathered a short list of influencers in different industries who issued public apologies in various ways.
Understanding why influencers apologize can help you mitigate risks in your own influencer journey.
Kara and Nate are travel vloggers with over 2.5 million subscribers. When they started their channel several years ago, they set out with a goal to visit 100 countries and document their experiences. However, the duo faced serious backlash when they decided to post an hour long documentary to reveal their 100th country and provide behind the scenes look into their journey up until that point.
In this documentary, they hid the 100th country reveal behind a paywall at the end of the film. For just $1, you could finish the documentary right away or wait for it to become publicly available.
After accruing millions of followers and posting hundreds of videos, Kara and Nate asked their viewers for money for the first time. Whether the “ask” was fair or not, the delivery was off and the paywall was abrupt and unexpected. And coming from popular influencers who had been open about the large amount of revenue they generated from their channel, many fans felt offended that they were asking for money from subscribers whose incomes are significantly less.
If you want to ask for money for content, YouTube wouldn’t be the best platform to do it. Audiences do not expect to need to pay to view content. Instead, you could upload premium content to a different platform (like your website or third party host). Alternatively, you could be open and transparent about the work you put into a particular piece of content and ask viewers for a small, optionable donation if they enjoyed it.
Myka and James Stauffer were popular parenting influencers before they made the ultimate mistake by rehoming their adopted son, Huxley. Prior to this, they used the YouTube platform to document the painstaking process of adopting the four-year old from China. However, during the two years that the Stauffers had Huxley, they featured him in several monetized videos and received numerous high-profile sponsorships. None of the videos featuring Huxley appeared to depict any issues with the child.
The Stauffers announced that, although their decision to re-home Huxley was painfully difficult, they weren’t aware of some of his medical issues prior to adoption and didn’t feel equipped to handle them or give the child the attention he needed. Huxley was diagnosed with level 3 autism and a sensory processing disorder.
In addition to the backlash the Stauffers faced, there was a petition to have her entire YouTube channel taken down. It stated: “Her family used that child’s story for likes/views/subscriptions. They do not deserve to keep making money from their YouTube channel when it grew to the size it is now because of HIM.”
Every decision you make as an influencer should be heavily considered before you begin to document it. Because the Stauffers raised money via sponsorships and ad revenue to adopt Huxley, it was their duty to do their due diligence before turning the process (and child) into a revenue generator. While the Stauffers may not be entirely at fault, it was their responsibility to take extra precaution in the adoption process because it was so conducive to the health and growth of their social media channels.
Jenna Marbles was a comedian on YouTube who faced backlash after several of her older videos were found to have offensive jokes about race and gender. One video featured her making an impression of Nicki Minaj that viewers deemed “blackface.” Though she claimed she had good intentions, she offered a genuine apology to her fans.
In her apology, she also disclosed that she would be moving on from the channel to give herself the time she needed to think about the content she’s created and hopes to create in future. In a social landscape where “cancel culture” is prominent, Jenna Marbles removed herself from the situation after her apology and hasn’t been on the channel since.
You’ve likely heard time and time again about celebrities and influencers whose past content has been analyzed and brought to light. Always assume your old content will be put under a microscope and conduct a social audit on yourself very early on. If you’re confident you’ve never published anything offensive on any platform, keep your content in check moving forward.
Trevor Martin has a long history on the YouTube platform as a gaming vlogger. Like any growing influencer, Martin promoted several products on his channel. However, when he promoted a gambling website that he and a fellow YouTuber owned without disclosing his relationship to the site, he was called out for it.
Shortly after, he uploaded an apology video to take responsibility for the tainted promotion. The video begins with Martin holding and affectionately kissing his dog before launching into a profession of his love for his followers.
However, as he entered the apology portion of the video, he starts by saying “My connection to CSGO Lotto has been a matter of public record since the company was first organized in December of 2015. However, I do feel like I owe you guys an apology. I am sorry to each and every one of you who felt like that was not made clear enough to you.”
Trevor Martin’s marks a classic case of taking responsibility while still absolving yourself from it. Just because there is a public document somewhere that shows you aren’t hiding ownership or involvement doesn’t mean the public should be expected to search for it. Martin missed the entire “disclosure” part of promotion that can not only damage a career, but result in serious consequences from the Federal Trade Commission.
Always disclose the partnerships you have with other brands and disclose your involvement with any company you promote—including your own. This disclosure is still important if you don’t make money from it. For example, if your friend launched an apparel company and you want to help them out, you can’t post a glowing video review of their product without saying “this is my friend’s company, etc.”
James Charles is a popular YouTube beauty vlogger who has received various awards for his social media content and was the first male to be featured as the face of CoverGirl. However, he’s no stranger to online feuds and controversies. His most notable feud is with Tati Westbrook, another YouTube video blogger. This particular controversy received widespread attention, became synonymous with his name, and resulted in a public apology.
Tati Westbrook was an early adopter of YouTube and is recognized as one of the original beauty vloggers on the platform. Early on, Charles publicly referred to Westbrook as a mother figure and the pair spoke frequently and supported one another’s career moves. However, when Charles promoted a gummy supplement from the company Sugar Bear Hair, Westbrook considered it an emotional conflict of interest because she was the founder of a competing company called Halo Beauty.
Because both parties were often linked as an influential duo, Charles made an initial apology for promoting Westbrook’s competitor, but claimed it was because the brand’s security team helped him get away from a hectic Coachchella crowd and that he was not paid for the endorsement.
However, Westbrook later responded on YouTube to state that the apology was disingenuous, that she never received a personal apology, and that her husband, who helped Charles rigorously throughout his career, also did not receive an apology. But most importantly, Westbrook said she was also offended by his aggressive sexual behavior towards young, straight men. After several other popular vloggers corroborated with Westbrook, Charles became the first YouTuber to lose one million followers in 24 hours.
Without acknowledging the obvious things you shouldn’t do, there are several teachable moments here. If you plan to support another brand that is a direct competitor to an individual you care about (publicly or privately), you should always give them the courtesy of speaking to them ahead of time.
You don’t need to be a popular YouTuber to apologize on your channel. Even microinfluencers can take bad content mistakes as learning opportunities and apologize.
This isn’t to say that you should never make mistakes; mistakes happen. How you handle them and how you apologize makes all the difference. Some of the YouTubers mentioned here continued to thrive after their apology, while others lost many fans and struggled.
Preventative actions are best, but things happen. If you ever need to apologize, be genuine and don’t make it a production. Kara and Nate removed their paywall after their apology; the The Stauffers removed all content featuring their adopted son so they could no longer profit from it. You need to not only be apologetic, but take corrective action.