I’m not usually one for celebrity gossip, but the recent announcement that Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner are proceeding with divorce has brought an interesting phenomenon to my attention. According to media, it is a mutual decision and they will remain a parenting team for their children. I’ve also read Ben is a gambling addict and he’s been ignoring his home life while focusing on his career. Yet, what I find most interesting about this story are not the circumstances leading up to their divorce, but how much positive support they are both receiving from the public.
That got me wondering. How can a couple as idolized as Bennifer manage to improve their PR in the midst of allegations and speculations?
If you’ve never heard of the pratfall effect, it’s time you did—especially if you find it difficult to connect with clients on a personal level. The pratfall effect essentially means that people will like you more when you make small blunders. When we as business professionals try to pretend we are perfect at all times, we come across as being fake. (Here is a great article about how photographers and other creatives can use this psychology to their advantage.)
Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting you can let the quality of your work slip or show up late to a shoot. But if you’re racing out of the house to meet with a client and you discover you’re wearing two different shoes, don’t worry about it.
Here is the most important thing you need to know about the pratfall effect: You can only get away with making these small offenses AFTER you are undeniably perceived as a competent professional.
A long time ago I worked with an actress who now has her own reality show. She showed up to the set two hours late and she was sucking her thumb. (Yup, that’s what I thought too.) Her publicist assured her it was no problem at all. Wow.
After the shoot was published, I received a request from a European magazine that wanted to re-publish the images. I called the publicist for clearance and she threw a fit that ended with: “I will make sure you never work in this town again.”
It was obvious to me this spoiled celebrity and her delusional publicist were both blind to how their behaviors were perceived. This whole glamour, fake, make-believe putting celebrities on top of pedestals has to end.
It comes down to authenticity. We want to look behind the curtain and see what someone is really made of.
Because this is the age of authenticity. We want to believe in honest people who have goals, values, ideals—and imperfections. We want to know if you are real or not. Fake is so 2010.
And this is how Ben and Jennifer are navigating their divorce so elegantly. They are allowing us to see them as regular people dealing with heartache, and asking us to respect their privacy for the sake of their children. They are showing us their warts.
Who will fall from our grace? Those we don’t believe. The ones we find to be genuine will survive.
To us as business owners, it means our clients want to know us, not the business personas we wear. It also means we are wholly accountable for everything we do at all times; our career success is always on the line. Remember this when posting your next virtual temper tantrum.
So if you say it, write it, or do it, you had better mean it because there’s a chance you’ll be facing your own actions one day. What a shocking concept—owning what one says…