Vogue’s Kimye Cover Stirs Viral Uproar

 Vogues Kimye Cover Stirs Viral Uproar

THE PR VERDICT: “B” (Good Show) for Vogue.

Print fashion bible Vogue has been trying to boost drooping sales with bold cover choices, such as rap sensation Rhianna and Girls star Lena Dunham. But this month’s cover of Vogue, featuring Kim Kardashian and Kanye West, is apparently straining the core readership’s tolerance for what’s new this spring.

“I guess I’m canceling my Vogue subscription,” tweeted actress Sarah Michelle Gellar. “Who is with me???” (And where was her publicist for that zinger?) Gellar was just one of many who took to the twitterverse and beyond to voice outrage over the cover choice. Why? Vogue die-hards want to know what Kim and Kanye have to do with fashion, other than being able to buy a lot of it.

Ah, but that would lead to the assumption that Vogue is merely about clothes. No no, asserts editor in chief Anna Wintour. “Part of the pleasure of editing Vogue…is being able to feature those who define the culture at any given moment, who stir things up, whose presence in the world shapes the way it looks and influences the way we see it,” Wintour is quoted as saying. Another reason? Sales have fallen 20 percent; desperate times call for Kim and Kanye covers.

The question in this internet age is whether controversy translates into cash, or if talk – when done online – will cheapen the effect. Time and sales figures will tell. For now, everyone is talking about Vogue‘s cover.

THE PR VERDICT: “B” (Good Show) for Vogue.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Talk is expensive, and may even cost you. It’s not easy these days to dominate web chatter, be the object of debate and even satire, and garner a large chunk of chat shows. Vogue‘s cover has done all of that, albeit probably not for the reason Wintour wanted. At the risk of riling the faithful – though dwindling – core audience, people are talking about Vogue. Better to be controversial than boring.

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.

Galliano Fashions a PR Comeback

 Galliano Fashions a PR Comeback

THE PR VERDICT: “A” (PR Perfect) for John Galliano.

Is John Galliano’s exile from the fashion world over? The designer has finally broken his silence, following his spectacular fall from grace in 2011 after making anti-Semitic rants in Paris. One episode in particular was videotaped, prompting his immediate firing from Dior and later conviction by a French court.

In his first interview since the scandal, Galliano opens up to a very sympathetic Vanity Fair.  His story has the making of an epic novel – the “un-idyllic” childhood in a multi-cultural but rough London neighborhood, where he was bullied for his homosexuality; his ascent into the world of high fashion; and the demons unlocked in fashion’s world of high pressure and unhealthy pampering. En plus, the unclear provenance of the incriminating video, fed to the media before Galliano’s arrest, provides just a hint of conspiracy. Vanity Fair spares no effort to exonerate, consulting and quoting experts to make the case that, when he hissed those spiteful things to people, Galliano just couldn’t help himself: Alcohol and drugs had simply made him insane.

Center stage in the article is Galliano’s contrition. Friends and other supporting sources, such as Jewish leaders he met through an executive of Vanity Fair’s publisher Condé Nast, vouch for the same. He studied the Holocaust, attended service at a synagogue, and is finally making tentative steps back into his profession, supported by fashion royalties such as Oscar de la Renta and Anna Wintour. Shalom, John, welcome back!

THE PR VERDICT: “A” (PR Perfect) for John Galliano. With a little help from influential friends, a comeback is always possible.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: For perfect rebound PR, timing is everything. Prepare the line-up of your supporters carefully, and make sure potential antagonists remain silent; one of the key stakeholders in this saga, Galliano’s former employer LVMH, declined to comment due to ongoing litigation about Galliano’s compensation. (The article hints at a soon-to-be-expected “human-to-human” apology from Galliano to his former bosses.) The glitterati love a tormented, artistic soul, and once confession and amends have been made, one may be pardoned and permitted to go back to work. Our PR advice? Post-comeback, work in silence.

 

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.

The First Wives PR Club

 The First Wives PR Club

The PR Verdict: “C” (Distinctly OK) to Ann Romney and “B” (Good Show) to Michelle Obama.

Still undecided about who to vote for on November 6? Tired of thinking about tax rates and foreign policy? Just turn to Woman’s Day and US Weekly for some guidance. Women’s magazines have just been enrolled into the election battles. The result? Ann Romney and Michelle Obama are everywhere.

Woman’s Day broke the news that Michelle Obama’s favorite food is mac n’ cheese, while Ann Romney’s favorite film is The Sound of Music. Michelle told US Weekly that her favorite guilty pleasure is French fries while outlining to Good Housekeeping the Obama family’s daily exercise program. Family Circle took a poll of the ladies’ recipes: Michelle Obama’s chocolate chip cookies won over Ann Romney’s M&M cookies. Oprah has interviews with both couples in October’s O Magazine.

From a PR perspective, how and where to do the interviews? Solo, or as a couple? What to talk about, and to whom? Ann is doing most interviews with her husband Mitt and focusing on magazines such as Good Housekeeping that have a median readership age in the mid fifties. Michelle, on the other hand, is going for the hipper vote. Doing interviews as a couple but then breaking out solo, she is talking to Elle and People en Espanol.

The PR Verdict:  “B” (Good Show) to Michelle Obama and “C” (Distinctly OK) to Ann Romney. Michelle has the edge in appealing to a wider audience.

The PR Takeaway: Have your cake (or, in this case, cookies) and eat it; be traditional and hip at the same time. Michelle Obama and Ann Romney are courting older female voters by giving insights into their respective domestic bliss, but Michelle is also playing to a younger crowd, with solo interviews in their favorite magazines. Ann Romney is doing well in her established segment, but so far her appeal to young fashion- and celebrity-reading females remains untested. It may be time to stop concentrating on the base she already knows and take a leaf from her opponent’s PR handbook.

What’s your opinion of the first wives’ PR tactics? Give us your PR Verdict!

 

Guest Column: Lady Gaga’s Fur Flap

 Guest Column: Lady Gagas Fur Flap

The PR Verdict: D (PR Problematic) for Lady Gaga.

Last week, Dan Mathews, Vice President of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) blasted Lady Gaga for prancing around in a fur coat. Gaga had previously been on the record professing,  “I hate fur, and I don’t wear fur,” but recent photos of her in fox and rabbit, and with a wolf carcass, made it appear that she has either changed her mind or lost her memory. Matthews told Gaga via a public letter that by wearing fur, she’s making herself “a target, just like the mindless Kim Kardashian.” The non-leather gloves are off!

Gaga responded with a Tweet instructing those wondering whether her fur was real or faux to “credit the designer HERMES. Thank You!” She then issued a lengthier explanation on her LittleMonsters.com website and simultaneously took a dig at PETA, saying that she doesn’t support “violent, abusive, and childish campaigns.”

“I am choosing not to comment on whether or not the furs I purchase are faux fur-pile or real because I would think it hypercritical [sic] not to acknowledge the python, ostrich, cow hide, leather, lamb, alligator, ‘kermit’ and not to mention meat, that I have already worn,” she said, referencing her infamous meat dress of 2010.

Gaga continued “…I have truly always stayed away from skinned fur, especially [since] I have never been able to afford a nice one, but this does not mean my morals are rigid and that I won’t bend at the sight of an absolute art piece of a coat… But I am truly sorry to fans who are upset by this, its [sic] a fair and applaudable [sic again] feeling about the health and safety of animals. I respect your views, please respect mine. And Kim Kardashian is fabulous,” the megastar added.

The PR Verdict: D (PR Problematic) for Lady Gaga. While a chastising public letter from PETA could be construed as “violent, abusive or childish,” it might also have been possible to turn the other cheek and let the whole issue blow over. The more important lesson for Gaga is to choose allies, such as the intractable PETA, carefully.

The PR Takeaway: Stand by your message or abandon it, but don’t remix it by saying one thing, then sort of retracting it. If you’re against fur, be against fur. If not, fine, but being against some fur and not all is a tad wishy-washy, and former allies like PETA will understandably make a meal of it. On the plus side, communicating via an impassioned blog keeps the connection with fans strong. But one tip: typos and mistakes don’t prove authenticity of authorship. A copy editor won’t dilute the message, however confusing the substance might be.

Stella McCartney’s Icy Olympic Tweet

 Stella McCartneys Icy Olympic Tweet

The PR Verdict: ”D” (PR Problematic) for Stella McCartney and her PR.

What was the PR advice given to designer Stella McCartney, creator of Team Great Britain’s podium outfits, as the opening of the Olympics got underway? As the Olympians went down the fashion runway, everyone watching had a point of view about each country’s sartorial expression. The Brits wore white and gold uniforms provided by clothing retailer Next, and not everyone was a fan.

The New York Times pronounced the uniforms “over the top.” Other commenters described the outfits as “somewhere between celestial beings and extras in a Jay-Z and Kanye West video.” Despite the unqualified success of the outstanding opening ceremony, some of the fashion press could’t resist a swipe. Presumably Stella McCartney didn’t want her clothing to be confused with those from Next; she designed the uniforms for the podium, not the opening. What to do?

Team McCartney dove into the world of social media and Tweeted, as the Brits’ uniform was unveiled, that Stella “designed the Team Great Britain performance kit, podium suit & village wear, not the Olympic ceremony suits.” Got that? Nothing to do with us, effectively read the message on Twitter. Her Tweet got more attention than it ever intended.

The PR Verdict: ”D” (PR Problematic) for Stella McCartney and her PR. Why not err on the side of generosity by congratulating Next and setting the record straight at the same time? Clarifying an issue with the word “not” is always open to misinterpretation.

The PR Takeaway: Be nice! Gushy good manners can make the same point as clarifications that may come off as harsh. From a PR point of view, it’s understandable that Stella McCartney wants to set the record straight about what was and wasn’t hers. Congratulating Next, instead of sending them out in the cold, would have been nicer and could have made the same point. How about this PR Appropriate Tweet: “A big fat congratulations to Next. My turn follows with our podium suits when we win our medals. Happy Games!” Exactly the same point, but nothing defensive, and it includes praise for  your Olympic partner. Sometimes good PR really is just about good manners.

To read more bitchy commentary about the Olympic uniforms, click here.

What’s your opinion of Stella McCartney’s clarification? Give us your PR Verdict!

Ralph Lauren’s Olympic Disaster

 Ralph Laurens Olympic Disaster

The PR Verdict: “A” (Gold Star!) for Ralph Lauren

Oh no! The blue blazers and white trousers of the US Olympic team aren’t made in the USA? The clothing that athletes from Team USA will wear was actually made in China? Outrageous! Ralph Lauren, who has proudly supplied the US Olympic team with its uniforms over the years, suddenly found itself in the ugly crossfire of the outsourcing debate.

The fracas started when both Sen. Harry Reid and Rep. Nancy Pelosi got wind that the uniforms were made in China. What a great media opportunity! The clothes have been Chinese-made since 2008, but oddly enough no one seemed to mind then, when outsourcing wasn’t such a hot political issue. This time around, everyone wanted to get on board. And when Donald Trump becomes the latest to start publicly opining, it’s definitely time to take remedial action.

Ralph Lauren issued a statement late on Friday night, presumably to kill weekend drumbeating, saying that the clothes will be made on US soil next  time:  “We have committed to producing the opening and closing ceremony Team USA uniforms in the United States that will be worn for the 2014 Olympic Games.”

The PR Verdict: “A” (Gold Star!) for Ralph Lauren for recognizing this was an issue with no winnable defense. Take corrective action, quickly, and move on.

The PR Takeaway: Issue your response and then elevate the topic to wider macro concerns. There is no upside in advocating outsourcing, particularly when it involves national symbols. No matter that other US fashion houses of similar standing would have done the same. Next step, make it clear that this is a wider issue. The firm said it will take the lead in the  “conversation” within the industry and government  about “manufacturing in the United States.” See? This issue wasn’t about Ralph Lauren… it was about the state of US manufacturing! Nothing personal.

What’s your opinion of the US Olympic team uniform debate? Give us your PR Verdict!

Vogue’s Syrian Faux Pas

 Vogues Syrian Faux Pas

The PR Verdict: “A” (Gold Star!) for Anna Wintour and Vogue.

The high priestess of fashion has (finally) spoken. After what seemed like months, Anna Wintour, Editor of American Vogue, uttered her first words of explanation about the fashion bible’s notoriously glowing profile about Asma Assad, wife of the Syrian dictator. Hailed as the modern face of reform in the Arab World, Assad was described by Vogue as “the “freshest and most magnetic of first ladies . . . a rose in the desert.” Not long after publication, the Syrian tanks started rolling and government-sanctioned executions of dissenters began.

Vogue writer Joan Juliet Buck initially seemed embarrassed to have written the article but was later oddly unrepentant.  When questioned about the piece, her startling reply was that Asma Assad  was “extremely thin and very well dressed, and therefore qualified to be in Vogue.”

Ice Queen Wintour finally caved in to a rumbling chorus from pressure groups asking what Vogue could have been thinking?  Issuing a full statement on Sunday, she said in part, “Like many at the time, we were hopeful that the Assad regime would be open to a more progressive society…  We deplore the actions of the Assad regime in the strongest possible terms.”

The PR Verdict: “A” (Gold Star!) for Anna Wintour and Vogue, who turned the page on their faux pas. As the situation in Syria worsens, this was not going to go away.

PR Takeaway: Hindsight gives ample cover, and it’s always in fashion as a PR explanation. Why be embarrassed? Dictator Assad and his attractive, educated, investment banker wife were known to have actively pursued a PR profile in the West. Wintour and Vogue can hardly be blamed when much of the West was participating in the very same love-in. But in order to maintain credibility, it’s best to say “Oops” and move on. Vogue, along with many others, had the cashmere pulled over their eyes. Wintour says the “priorities and values”’ of the Assads are completely at odds with the values of Vogue. At least now, Vogue is on the right side of the debate.

Justin Bieber and Dinner with Mommie

justin bieber 02 300x207 Justin Bieber and Dinner with Mommie

The PR Verdict: “F” for Justin Bieber.

Does anyone, apart from pubescent teenage girls, find Justin Bieber even vaguely interesting?  Not really, might be the inevitable response.  While the 18-year-old singer continues to enjoy extraordinary popularity in his target demographic, his PR minders have obviously been wondering if they should explore further afield.  Cue an interview in the latest edition of GQ Magazine.

On paper the interview made complete sense.  How can we make Justin seem more interesting to another demographic? Why not young(ish), fashion conscious men who might want to hear more about him?  “How about a sit down interview with GQ?” must have been the excitement at the morning meeting.  Let’s see what we can arrange!

Bieber did the interview.  Nice enough. But the bad news is that it did nothing more than reinforce his image as a young kid, taken by surprise by his own success.  GQ describes him as ‘ a very small human being’ who resembles the Star Wars super hero Luke Skywalker,   “if he had his own perfume line”.  The interview was finally completed, after having been rearranged multiple times to squeeze in dinner with his mommie.

The PR Verdict:  “F” for a failed strategy.  It will take more than an interview with GQ to make him into the bad boy of music.  And next time don’t mention dinner with mommie.

PR TAKEAWAY:  Give a journalist something new to write about, otherwise the default content will be what has been written already.   This was an interview searching for a subject matter.  Bieber (all of 18) was unable to identify a cause, issue or romantic interest that would takes his profile to the Mickey Rourke or Sean Penn level.  GQ concluded the interview by opining that for Bieber “manhood can wait”.   Sadly , this interview was at best five years too early.

To read the interview click here.