Jeffries Out of Style at Abercrombie?

 Jeffries Out of Style at Abercrombie?

THE PR VERDICT: “D” (PR Problematic) for Mike Jeffries and Abercrombie & Fitch.

Fashion trends rarely live beyond a season. The shelf life of those who create the trends may last longer, but an article in the spring fashion issue of New York Magazine may herald the end of one long-running reign: that of Mike Jeffries, CEO and former chairman of the board at Abercrombie & Fitch.

The piece could easily have made more of Jeffries’ pecadillos, such as his extensive cosmetic surgery and draconian regulations about male model staff aboard the corporate jet. Instead, it focused instead on a familiar story: a steady rise, and a precipitous fall. Jeffries created a multi-billion dollar brand with iconic merchandising that teenagers could not get enough of; now, in the wake of $15.6 million losses last quarter, Jeffries is no longer chairman of the board, and there are rumors of replacement.

A&F did not make Jeffries available to contribute to the story. Quotes about his micromanagement style came from former employees and associates, who theorize that brand exclusivity, created by Jeffries, was behind A&F’s success in the 1990s, and its downfall in the inclusive aughts. “What we’ll remember Jeffries for now is for failing to change, for all the store closures, for the way employees were treated,” says Brian Sozzi, head of Belus Capital Advisors. “That’s unfortunate.”

THE PR VERDICT: “D” (PR Problematic) for Mike Jeffries and Abercrombie & Fitch.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Step to the side, then make a re-entrance.  New York Magazine’s article is the kind that causes damaging chatter within its industry. First defense? Say nothing, as A&F did by not contributing quotes. Second: Pause, so that the next action taken isn’t viewed as defensive. Third, return with bold news – a new line and a new initiative. A&F could still make a comeback. After all, every fashion trend gets another strut down the catwalk.

Sick Leave Issue Makes Disney Look Ill

 Sick Leave Issue Makes Disney Look Ill

The PR Verdict: “D” (PR Problematic) for Disney World.

Walt Disney World: The Happiest Place on Earth… Unless you’re not feeling well. That’s the word out of Florida, where the family-friendly entertainment resort is being slammed for blocking employees from receiving paid sick time.

That’s what the press is reporting, anyway. In truth, Disney World and other businesses are objecting to state legislation that would allow local governments in Florida to enact their own wage-and-benefits laws. Presumably, Disney’s lobbyists are arguing that, in addition to an inherent question of fairness, having to conform to potentially dozens of local laws would place an undue burden on their clients.

We use the word “presumably” because Disney has not commented on the matter and its position, if public, is nowhere to be found. As a result, the media is carrying only the messages of disgruntled employees, their unions, and a grassroots group called MomsRising that has taken the issue of guaranteed sick time national. Last week, a group of MomsRising activists who tried to deliver a petition to Disney’s corporate offices were turned away by security.

This isn’t Disney’s first tussle with employees. A few years ago, a union representing 25,000 Disney employees shot a film called Mouse Trapped 2010. In it, workers tell tales of earning less than $8 an hour after three years of service and having to go to local churches for handouts despite being employed full-time. It’s a small wage after all, and this latest news could bring ill will to Disney’s PR.

THE PR VERDICT: “D” (PR Problematic) for Disney World. One need only look to Walmart or Michael Moore’s film Roger & Me slamming General Motors to see what might be in store for the Magic Kingdom.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Silence may be golden, but it’s not always the right PR move. Once your name is in the headlines, it can pay to clarify your position. This is particularly true for a place like Disney World, a global powerhouse of a business built on fairy tales – being seen as being mean just doesn’t fit the brand. Disney may think it has bigger fish to fry than dealing with some squeaky wheels in Florida, but management would do well to recall the famous advice of U.S. Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill: “All politics is local.”





The Tory Burch Story

tory burch3 150x150 The Tory Burch Story

The PR Verdict: “A” (PR Perfect) for the Tory Burch Story.

Tory Burch is one of  NY fashion’s undisputed darlings. The immaculately presented blonde, previously on the New York social scene, now presides over a $2 billion fashion business with over 2000 employees. The former PR copywriter from Ralph Lauren has carved out an exceptional fashion niche. The media asks on a regular basis; How has Tory done it?

WSJ magazine, the monthly supplement from the Wall Street Journal just gave its readers an insight. Featured in this month’s “Tracked” column readers were whisked through a day in the life of the fashion entrepreneur. Described as the “designer that turned a tiny line started in her kitchen,”she now presides over a “sprawling empire with an unfaltering smile”.

The article traces Tory’s busy 18-hour day while faithfully returning to previously publicised PR messaging. The main points? Tory started this enterprise on a kitchen table. She is not a trained designer. This is a family business, first and foremost. (Why even the needlepoint pillows are stitched by Tory and her parents.)  The PR narrative never changes and even the WSJ describes the designer’s day as “a maddening lesson in maintaining perfect deportment.” Nothing interrupts the flow. The PR message  is always ON even if some of the details might warrant closer scrutiny.

The PR Verdict: “A” (PR Perfect) for the Tory Burch Story.  The PR narrative never changes.

The PR Takeaway: Create your branded narrative and stick to it.  The Tory Burch PR story can’t help but impress and make for great magazine coverage.  But some cynics might claim that some noteworthy details are often overlooked. Yes the business may have been started on a kitchen table but  the kitchen table was equally owned by her husband at the time, a leading venture capital investor with experience in the fashion industry. Small details maybe, but while fashions change, Tory’s PR narrative stays the same and her brand inevitably strengthens.

To read the article click here.