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!

What To Say When Sued?

ELLENPAO What To Say When Sued?

PR Verdict: “C” for venture capital firm Kleiner and its handling of Ellen Pao's lawsuit.

What’s the wisest thing to say when being sued? That must have been the question Silicon Valley’s favourite venture capital firm, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers asked itself when recently probed about its sexual harassment and discrimination lawsuit.  “We will defend ourselves vigorously” was its unimaginative statement to the media.  Ho hum at best.

The NY Times has taken up the pending case of Ellen Pao a junior partner at the firm, hired several years ago to work as Chief of Staff to one of the firm’s higher ups.  Trouble started brewing when another junior partner made sexual advances to her.  She consented a couple of times and then, as they say in the movies, she called the whole thing off.  The claim alleges that as a result of ending the relationship, her thwarted paramour started a five-year campaign of retaliation.

The filing alleges systemic discrimination against Pao and other women, including poorer pay than her male counterparts and the distribution of less lucrative investment opportunities to women in the firm, while juicy assignments go to male colleagues.  In brief the main complaint is that the firm fails to give women the full range of opportunities to be successful.  Presumably this is not the sort of publicity that Silicon Valley’s leading venture capital firm wants or needs?

The PR Verdict: “C” for Kleiner and its handling of this story.  Wasn’t there an opportunity to go further than the standard PR response?

The PR Takeaway:  The power of the archive is strong.  The firm, even if it settles on undisclosed terms, now has a major article in the internet archive that raises many questions. True the article did draw attention to it having more female partners than peers  but being more vocal in defense of the firm might have been a better tactic.  A female partner defended the firm saying  “I was drawn to the firm because of its diversity and have excelled here as have other women. …Everyone has an equal opportunity to succeed”.   Why not say the same thing from a corporate point of view and come out in the media as strongly as the defense planned for the courtroom?  What would have been the harm done?

To read more click here.

The Ruffled Feathers of Opera News

operanews  The Ruffled Feathers of Opera News

The PR Verdict: “D” for the Metropolitan Opera and Opera News.

What a puzzling (and entertaining) fuss at Opera News, the venerable classical music magazine, published by the Metropolitan Opera Guild, the fund raising affiliate of NY Metropolitan Opera.  Feathers have been ruffled by the magazine’s decision to no longer review the productions of its parent, New York Metropolitan Opera.

Peter Gelb, the controversial head of Met Opera gave an interview to the NYTimes confirming the decision was made in collaboration with the Met’s Guild.  The Editor of Opera News then gave perfunctory confirmation that the magazine is no longer reviewing Met Opera productions.  He also added that no other opera company has been banished from its review pages.

Whispers suggest that the policy is prompted by the Met, annoyed with recent negative reviews of its own productions.  Conspiracy theorists are claiming censorship.   Whatever the case, negative reviews of costly Met Opera productions, published in an affiliate magazine, hardly enhance fund raising.

The PR Verdict: “D” for the Metropolitan Opera and Opera News.  The diva in this case should have let the understudy do the talking.

PR Takeaway.  Who explains an issue to the media is as important as what is said.  To minimise the suggestion that there was undue influence from the Met, the ONLY person who should have spoken to the media was the editor of Opera News . The key message might have been that reviews would no longer be published to minimise conflicts of interest with current fundraising drives.  This was one case where Peter Gelb, General Manager for Met Opera, would have been better advised to be unavailable for comment and let the editor of Opera News do all the talking.

UPDATE : Since publication of the NYTimes article,  Metropolitan Opera has reversed its decision. The Met issued a statement late yesterday that it has changed its decision “because of the passionate response of the fans.”