Martha Stewart was very busy over the Thanksgiving – and not just cooking up a feast. The guru of home entertaining was featured in both The New York Times and The Financial Times. Both articles were presumably designed to calm investor nerves about her company, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, which recently announced layoffs and financial losses.
The NYT glowingly described Martha as the new “patron saint” of the hipster entrepreneurial class while the FT gave Ms. Stewart multiple opportunities to talk about planned and current business initiatives (good for the stock price). And neither failed to mention her time in the clink.
Martha gave the FT passing acknowledgment of her prison sentence for lying to prosecutors about a stock sale, while the NYT asked her fan base for its opinion. Luckily, the responses were consistently positive. One fan, who referred to Martha as “The Jesus of the craft world,” said, “I heard that she just took some bad advice. Anybody can make mistakes.” Martha, from what she told the FT, takes a similar view.
The PR Verdict: “A” (Gold Star!) to Martha Stewart for putting a tough period behind her. It’s even given her street cred!
The PR Takeaway: Set the tone, and others will follow. While prison time might have theoretically ruined the image of the perfect homemaker, Martha Stewart has been able to successfully move on. Parting with the traditional PR strategy of public atonement, Martha instead describes her prison time as “a hole I fell into; luckily it wasn’t a very deep hole,” while adding that the experience didn’t teach her much. From the outset she has been unrepentant, and now her new followers are taking the same line of indifference. In the age of labored public apologies, this is one strategy that is breaking the mold. And Martha’s expanded fan base seems to like it.
What’s your opinion of Martha Stewart’s strategy? Give us your PR Verdict!