If there’s one thing that made me cringe in 2013, it was hearing the words “I’m not perfect.” I swear there was some sort of edict sent around the public relations industry in January that this would be the new catch phrase – the uber talking point that could somehow deflect all criticism – to be spread around going forward.
Its overuse by everyone from celebrities to politicians to corporations attests to this conspiracy theory. Take young Canadian crooner Justin Bieber, for example. He’s learning the PR ropes quickly, if a recent interview is any indication.
Biebs apologized-but-not-really for some of his past antics, which include everything from vandalizing walls and kicking flags to hanging out in brothels and stealing bikes, with the old standby: “I make mistakes growing up. I’m not perfect; I’m not a robot,” he said last week on Ryan Seacrest’s radio show. “People forget I’m a human being [and] I have to make mistakes and grow stronger.”
Hmm, that sounds a lot like another Canadian mischief maker by the name of Rob Ford. If anyone perfected the art of the backhanded apology in 2013, it was certainly the Toronto mayor. After getting caught smoking crack, amid a variety of other misdeeds, Ford made the media rounds where he repeated the mantra ad nauseum:
“I’m not perfect. Maybe you are. Maybe other people are. I’ve made mistakes. I’ve admitted my mistakes,” he said on the Today Show. “Am I perfect? No, I am not perfect,” he told the CBC. At Sun News, he admitted: “I’m only human. I am not perfect. I’ve yet to see someone who has never made a mistake in their life.”
Yet, believe it or not, Ford wasn’t the least perfect excuse maker of the year. That title goes to wireless carrier Telus, which tossed the “we’re not perfect” rationalization around all year regardless of the circumstance or context, but especially when anyone criticized the company for its rates or service.
Here’s regulatory guy Ted Woodhead: “We know we’re not perfect at Telus, but we’ve been working very hard over the last few years to listen to our customers – and respond.” Here’s communications guy Nick Culo: “As I’ve said before on this blog, we know we’re not perfect at Telus, but we’re working hard on getting better” (evidently he’s said this before). Here’s spokesman Shawn Hall, and with this one you can actually play a drinking game – have a shot every time he says “We’re not perfect:”
If there’s a common message to be gleaned from these examples, it’s that no one – celeb, politician or company – is perfect. We all seemed to have forgotten that in 2013 because we sure had to be reminded of it a lot.
Going into 2014, we should all resolve to remember that everything that sucks in this world, or every misdeed or stupidity that happens, is because someone, somewhere isn’t perfect. And that makes it all perfectly alright.