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Accountability; How to Respond to Cancel Culture

By Eliana Jacobsen, Account Coordinator, Spring 2021


Everyone has done it.


Everyone has messed up. Everyone has missed a deadline. Everyone has let people down, and everyone has disappointed their colleagues, coworkers and superiors.

It’s a terrifying feeling. Unfortunately, it’s a consequence of being human.

I’m proud of the work I have accomplished at Inigo, but it’s always the mistakes that tend to nag my thoughts after my head hits the pillow.

Did I handle that well?

Could I have responded to that better?

Does everyone in the world hate me?

Over my professional career, I have learned how to manage these personal crises to ensure the best outcome for my colleagues and assuage my guilt. In the age of cancel culture, figuring out how to apologize correctly and make amends has never been more important. We, as a society are beginning to recognize the consequences of an internet culture that immortalizes our faults. It’s likely, no matter how internet savvy you are, you have posted something online that you now regret.

That’s no excuse, of course. “That was in the past” is a poor argument when it comes to defending one’s privileged position within the social hierarchy. Google canceled celebrities and you’ll find a laundry list of bad examples of public excuses.

As public relations professionals, our clients rely on us to make better decisions when it comes to repairing reputations and moving forward. Often what you did can be fixed. How you handle the fall will determine whether you can overcome your mistake and regain public trust. Here are my tips.

Take Accountability for Your Actions.

An excuse is as good as a lie. Don’t sugar coat your actions or shift the blame onto someone else. Take ownership of your mistake and recognize that you did wrong. The truth is refreshing.


Apologize.

You made a mistake. You owe an apology to the party you wronged and the people you let down. Make it short and honest. Likely, the other party wants to move on as quickly as you do.

Offer Solutions.

Depending upon the mistake, you might be able to make restitution. Give the offended party some options within reason, and don’t just throw money at the problem. If the situations were reversed, what would help you the most? Could you donate on their behalf? Could you redo the assignment with their corrections? Could you reschedule a presentation?

Dedicate yourself to doing better.

An apology isn’t enough, especially if you go on without having learned anything from the experience. Educate yourself and figure out a way to move forward with a different mindset. Who knows? Maybe that mistake was a wake-up call for you. Use the failure to fuel better performance.

Mistakes are embarrassing and hard to overcome sometimes. The way you handle the crisis will likely determine whether your colleagues, your client, your superior or the public will ever trust you again.

Above all, be kind to yourself. A missed assignment is not something to lose sleep over. Don’t let your fear of failure keep you from performing your best later down the road. Use the opportunity to grow, and you’ll find most mistakes are small during your career.

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