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Logan Paul’s documentary addressing suicide forest saga: Yet another PR ploy?

Logan Paul has revealed that a documentary which addresses his suicide forest scandal in January is currently in the works. In a recent video, Paul explained that the documentary would explain where he was at in his life and the “psyche of what actually happened”, which includes his upbringing.

“We’re actually filming a documentary about everything that has happened this year, all the stuff that went down in January, where I was at in my life and the psyche of what actually happened, which includes my upbringing,” the full statement read.

The move to film a documentary has also copped flak from netizens, who accused Paul of not learning and reflecting from what had happened and instead, monetising his bad behaviour. Some also raised concerns that the documentary would be biased and might painting Paul as the victim.

That being said, there are many potential reasons why Paul is choosing now to debut the documentary, David Lian, managing director of Zeno Malaysia said in a statement to Marketing. This includes furthering his narrative like what netizens are saying or something more personal like wanting to explain his actions as he felt misunderstood. Choosing not to do it earlier might have also been the result of waiting for the fire to die down so everything he did would not come across too obvious as a knee-jerk reaction, Lian explained.

“Social media has had a huge impact on the art of storytelling and the platforms it operates in, perhaps this documentary could be a way for Paul to engage his followers and the public on the matter,” Lian said, adding:

His status as a content creator also allows him to better leverage the storytelling process.

Meanwhile Lee Nugent, regional director APAC, Text100 also said that through the move, Paul will indeed have full control of the narrative and tone of his film. However, that level of control comes with responsibility. “We will need to wait and see if he uses that responsibility wisely to reflect on the bad decisions he made previously, or if he uses it to try and excuse his behaviour,” Nugent said.

Documentaries not a new PR move

Paul’s move to film a documentary is also not a new one and comes on the back of other YouTube content creators who are leveraging this content type as a tool for PR recovery. For example, Shane Dawson, who was embroiled in the recent TanaCon debacle which was flaked for poor organisation, released a documentary series on the event to distance himself from the saga.

As documentaries are examples of long form content, using the format for image recovery is not necessarily a new move, say players in the field. According to Lian, it is often a method that both communications professionals as well as client use to accurately frame or portray a specific scenario or rationale towards a decision.

For example, there were documentaries which emerged following the Gulf explosion which involved BP, which allowed the company to explain the incident in more detail – what were the causes, new precautions and measures being taken afterwards.

A documentary is also an opportunity for the brand to demonstrate how it was acting responsibly throughout the crisis.

Agreeing with Lian, Nugent added that long form films have not only been used as PR tools, but also often to support a point of view or a desire to educate an audience on a particular matter.

Some examples include climate change film An Inconvenient Truth by Al Gore and Michael Moore’s anti-gun documentary Bowling for Columbine. Similarly, famed media executive Steve Bannon has also made documentaries which support his point of view – which has also been characterised as “slanted”, or many say “dangerously biased”.

“As such, individuals, brands, campaigning organisations and more can absolutely use long and short form documentary films as a tool to educate. However, these films have to be responsible, transparent, authentic and truthful,” Nugent said, adding:

In any form of communication including the use of documentaries, the key here is to have honesty and transparency.

Earlier this year, Paul landed himself in PR hot water when he uploaded a graphic video containing the body of a suicide victim, which was also included in the video’s thumbnail. Following the move, YouTube condemned Paul’s actions, removed his channels from Google Preferred and from YouTube’s Originals series which he was starring in.

Although Paul had apologised for his actions, YouTube was also thrust into the spotlight for allowing the graphic video to appear on its top trending videos page. The debacle also prompted YouTube to reveal three new measures six days after in a bid to tighten its control on how its videos are monetised on the platform. This included stricter criteria for monetisation on YouTube, more content vetting on its Google Preferred program and simpler and more transparent controls over ad placement.

Read also:

Logan Paul’s latest suicide awareness video – just another PR play?
YouTube suspends ads on all Logan Paul videos

Suspension lifted: Ads allowed back on Logan Paul’s content on YouTube

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