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Former Pres. Bill Clinton Teaches Justin Bieber a Few Things About Crisis Management

By Jason Mudd

Justin Bieber, as it turns out, just got schooled.

Bieber knows how to put on some dance moves and make teen girls swoon. This week, he can also add to his knowledge base how to carry out some presidential-style damage control for less-than-gracious behavior.

It’s former President Bill Clinton who is doing the schooling, demonstrating to Bieber how to turn an unpleasant video clip into a teachable moment about crisis management.

What happened: A video of Bieber circulated widely online in which Bieber urinates into a bucket while leaving a New York restaurant, and then yells out, “F___ Bill Clinton,” while exiting a club later in the evening. Hours later, Bieber was on the phone with Clinton, voicing an apology. Next, a heartfelt Tweet by Bieber very publicly thanked Clinton (named Mr. President) for his wisdom and understanding, and was then followed by another Tweet including the phrase, “gotta learn to live better.”

What didn’t happen is even more important from a crisis management angle: Clinton didn’t respond with a snide remark or outburst on social media to the 19-year-old pop giant. He didn’t escalate the situation, nor try to turn it into an attack on what’s wrong with the current generation. He didn’t jump in and try to immediately redirect social media buzz.

Instead, Clinton took the private call, extended grace to the singer and then perhaps sat back to allow the singer himself to cast a new angle on the experience.

It worked.

Bieber himself redirected the social media buzz with his apologetic Tweets, laden with new life lessons for his audience. Clinton’s public perception gained a new level of wisdom and maturity, perhaps conjuring up an almost father-son moment for audiences. You could almost picture the former president patting Bieber on the shoulder and saying, “Now get back in there, and make better mistakes tomorrow.”

The damage control message crafted by Clinton’s actions may have also hit the bullseye with a young adult audience, making a memorable impression toward the Clinton brand (or, for at least a few weeks, until new Bieber drama catches their attention).

In Bieber’s camp, his Twitter recap of the conversation may not have been strategically planned, but it did help show a humanness and willingness to be somewhat humbled that audiences find appealing. He also reacted quickly on the social media channels, not allowing the situation to fester and become much, much worse.

Do you have a crisis that requires an apology? For some sage PR insight for your brand, download our crisis management e-book for our apology model and reach out to our public relations firm. We’ve been around the image management block for more than a decade as a company with experienced PR professionals. We’ve turned out some success stories for our clients that would truly make their mothers proud. Contact Axia Public Relations today and let’s talk.

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Topics: media relations, public relations, crisis communications, shared media

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