Coco Chanel’s (left) reputation is in the firing line. Three forthcoming biographies all point to the same thing; during WWII she was a Nazi collaborator. The only matter for debate is the extent of her collaboration.
What’s beyond dispute is her long running affair with a Nazi spy. While sitting out the war at the Paris Ritz, she used Nazi influence to wrestle back control of her perfume business.
Today, Chanel’s PR department is noncommittal about what really happened. By referring to her Nazi lover as a “German aristocrat” Chanel is playing the classic PR game. Rather than deny the story, it is using alternative, less damaging nomenclature to describe the same set of facts. It keeps the waters muddy.
The PR Verdict: “ B” for Chanel’s PR. Confusion and vagueness will win the day.
This issue could damage the luster of Chanel’s brand, as the facts aren’t on Coco’s side. The preferable option is to allow contradictory stories to circulate and contribute to the myth. Three biographies with different versions is a PR gift. No need to clarify. Confusion is now guaranteed.
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