What should you do when you make a big mistake – own up and apologise or try to cover it up and pretend it never happened?
The Canadian pop star Justin Bieber has decided on the former – a classic tactic of reputation management – and by all accounts it’s winning over doubters and the approval of his vast army of fans.
His mea culpa came in an essay posted on Instagram in which he admitted becoming “the most hated person in the world” thanks to a string of “bad decisions” in his 20s.
Bieber, who was discovered at the age of 13, admitted to heavy drug use and abusing his relationships.
“I became resentful, disrespectful to women and angry,” he wrote.
“I became distant to everyone who loved me… I felt like I could never turn it around.”
Bieber said the constant praise he received in his teens had distorted his perspective on life.
“I went from a 13-year-old boy from a small town to being praised left and right by the world, with millions saying how much they loved me and how great I was,” he said.
“You hear these things enough as a young boy and you actually start believing it.”
“Everyone did everything for me, so I never even learned the fundamentals of responsibility.”
Now thanks to his wife Hailey Baldwin and family and friends, Bieber says he has learned the error of his ways and turned over a new leaf.
The arrogance and bad behaviour of his teens and early 20s have been replaced by “patience, trust, commitment, kindness, humility and all of the things it looks like to be a good man”.
Following the Instagram post, the pop sensation was flooded with messages of support and love from his fans.
“Mistakes were made but the truth is that you found your way back to a better place,” wrote one. “I’m proud to be a Belieber.”
There is a lesson here in reputation management for everyone, no matter how great or small. Be prepared to admit to your mistakes and promise to learn from them – and make sure you do.
That’s what audiences want to hear, and it will invariably win them over – until the next time when they will almost certainly take a lot more convincing.
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