Lululemon Founder’s Gaffe Gets Worse With “Apology”

 Lululemon Founders Gaffe Gets Worse With Apology

THE PR VERDICT: “F” (Full Fiasco) for Chip Wilson and Lululemon Athletica.

Chip Wilson, Lululemon founder, apologizes for comments,” was the gist of headlines last Friday, when the top-grossing athletic apparel company posted a video on YouTube. In it, Wilson addressed comments he’d made during an interview that resulted in much hue and cry. But was this video an actual apology?

An acknowledgment was certainly warranted. Wilson’s interview with Bloomberg touched on a costly product recall due to fabric sheerness. Wilson’s explanation? “Quite frankly, some bodies don’t work for [Lululemon pants],” he said.

Cue an onslaught of bloodcurdling cries for Wilson to apologize for size-ist insensitivity. In this age of social media, a video is generally the way companies choose to reach the masses. In the video, Wilson does say he’s sorry…to his staff. “I’m sad for the people of Lululemon who I care so much about that have really had to face the brunt of my actions,” he says. “I take responsibility for all that has occurred and the impact that has had on you.” He asks those who have made Lululemon what it is today to “stay in the conversation that is above the fray and prove that the culture you have built cannot be chipped away.” Chipped away by Chip’s absent apology, perhaps?

THE PR VERDICT: “F” (Full Fiasco) for Chip Wilson and Lululemon Athletica, for compounding this fracture.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Apologies work when they are clear and direct. Mere acknowledgement of having fouled up, or apologizing to those who sell your yoga pants for now having difficulty selling said yoga pants to angry women, is not an apology. If making a video for the public don’t address it to staff or insiders , instead acknowledge why people are angry and what role you have played in that. If that fails, prepare to make a follow up video, this time apologizing for the poor apology.

Netflix: From Doghouse to Darling

netflix Netflix: From Doghouse to Darling

THE PR VERDICT: “A” (PR Perfect) to Netflix, for making its own luck.

Sometimes, the famously fickle PR gods send you a gift, and if you’re lucky, smart, or both, you’ll get a chance to use it. This week’s beneficiary: Netflix. Two years ago, the video streaming and DVD rental company was a case study – literally – on how to fail a thriving enterprise, with questionable pricing and business decisions that sent subscribers stampeding for the exits. Netflix became the poster child for PR ignorance and customer neglect, losing nearly one million subscribers over a matter of months.

Then, a chastened Netflix started to turn it around. It reversed unpopular business decisions and issued a sincere (and persistent) mea culpa. It aligned its communications strategy with its business plan, breaking new ground for a streaming service by providing original content. Today, its subscriber base surpasses HBO’s and its stock price is six times what it was only a year ago. Quarterly earnings are next week.

And the gift? Just a humorous online chat between a funny, friendly, and helpful Netflix customer service representative and a user with a video playback problem. A screenshot of the Star Trek-themed dialogue was posted online on Imgur and Reddit and is getting wider attention. Netflix is getting free publicity from it – earned the hard way, and through hard work.

THE PR VERDICT: “A” (PR Perfect) for Netflix, for a turnaround in tone, culture, and attitude that turned around its business.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Good communication is contagious. Netflix’s earnest soul-searching two years ago, translated into words and actions, now appears to touch even the most routine business activities. Granted, maybe not all of Netflix’s help calls end as happily – customer service is a weak spot for many firms. But this exchange garnered publicity precisely because it speaks to a prevailing positive mindset that has formed about the company, one that seems to attract great employees as well as loyal, happy customers. Netflix provides an object lesson in how good conmunications helps throughout an organization. Its little PR gift also confirms that luck doesn’t just happen; you make your own.

Bachmann Video: What a Long, Strange Clip It’s Been

 Bachmann Video: What a Long, Strange Clip Its Been

THE PR VERDICT: “D” (PR Problematic) for Michele Bachmann.

US Congresswoman Michele Bachmann is a lot of things, but predictable isn’t one of them. The Minnesota Republican has once again made headlines, this time with the unexpected announcement that she won’t seek re-election in 2014.

The Tea Party darling’s reasons for stepping down are murky, and her announcement only made the waters more turbid. The first mistake was in dropping her bombshell via a YouTube video, an indication that she didn’t want to face questions about her decision or her future plans. Then there’s the video itself. Against an odd Chariots of Fire-style musical backdrop, Bachmann begins by rambling about term limits, then launches into a list of reasons she’s not retiring: certainly not because she faces a tough re-election campaign against a candidate she narrowly defeated last year, or because of a federal inquiry into possible misuse of her presidential campaign funds. In the remaining seven minutes of the video, she bashes the Obama administration, slams the “liberal media,” and rattles off a laundry list of issues she’ll continue to support or fight in her remaining 18 months in office.

Political swan song or groundlaying for another presidential bid? It’s impossible to tell. Bachmann says the country is on the wrong track and in the worst shape she’s ever seen, yet there is no opportunity, political or otherwise, that she won’t consider in the future. More than one copy editor must have smiled in appreciation at New York magazine’s headline, “Michele Bachmann Retires as President of Crazyland.”

THE PR VERDICT: “D” (PR Problematic) for Michele Bachmann. The Minnesota congresswoman befuddles, per usual.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: If you’re not going to say anything, say it as succinctly as possible. Bachmann announced her retirement, yet her constituents still have no clue why she’s leaving or what the future holds. It may well be that she doesn’t want to reveal all at this time, but a concisely worded press statement issued through her office would have accomplished the same goal without a move that only added to her already bizarre reputation.

To watch the video, click here.

Donald Trump, Master Buffoon

404232 542890259059818 265212859 n 150x150 Donald Trump, Master Buffoon

The PR Verdict: “F” (Full Fiasco) for Donald Trump.

The art of buffoonery hit new highs yesterday with the announcement by Donald Trump of what he had been promising for three days would be HUGE news. Trump hit Trump-friendly airwaves such as Fox earlier in the week, saying that on Wednesday he would make a BIG announcement concerning the President. Speculation was rife. What could The Donald know that every political operative in a closing election race hadn’t already hoped to find as political ammunition? The big reveal was yesterday at noon on YouTube.

The Donald’s BIG news was… nothing of the sort. Continuing with a variation on the birther argument, he called Barack Obama “the least transparent President in American history” (Richard Nixon might have sprung to mind). The Donald then congratulated himself in the video for having “gotten the President to release his long-form birth certificate – or whatever it may be.” He now says he has a deal for the President.

If Obama “hands over” his college records and passport application records to Trump, he will give $5 million to a charity of the President’s choice. As long as this is done “to my satisfaction,” says The Donald immodestly, he will deliver the check immediately. The forms must be in by October 31. He urged the President to meet the challenge and added that he was speaking on behalf of the entire US population.

The PR Verdict: “F” (Full Fiasco ) to Trump. Donald, you’re fired.

The PR Takeaway: Big talk and bluster equal buffoonery. Donald Trump, the Master Buffoon, has sealed his own PR image with this latest YouTube insanity. His video and language give no reason to suggest this is anything other than a self-serving publicity stunt. Does he know something we don’t? The much anticipated news “from the Desk of Donald Trump” was well-packaged as an unreservedly ego-driven publicity stunt, but the more publicity (of this type), the lower his credibility falls. At this rate, it may soon be political suicide to be publicly aligned with Trump. The sneaking suspicion is that he may not care.

To see the video, click here.

What’s your opinion of The Donald’s latest publicity stunt? Give us your PR Verdict!

Two-Step Fix for Romney’s “47 Percent” Disaster

 Two Step Fix for Romneys 47 Percent Disaster

The PR Verdict: “C” (Distinctly OK) for Romney’s response to this latest setback.

Any suggestions for Mitt Romney as to how to put the genie back in the bottle? That is the question as he copes with the fallout from the now infamous “47 Percent” video, in which Romney claimed that 47 percent of the American voting population suffers from a paralyzing dependence on government support and entitlements. It’s a “victim” mentality, said Mitt as he told the faithful that nearly half of the US population is an electoral lost cause.

This taped speech at a private fundraising event was never meant to be aired publicly, but now Democrats can’t believe their luck. For Romney’s campaign, battling with accusations of being tone deaf to the economic plight of ordinary Americans, this comes at a bad time. Mitt, in his response, is holding his ground. While his views were “inelegantly” expressed, he says, they related solely to how his campaign is being structured. This was about tactical electoral strategy only.

Not a bad response, and what else could he say under the circumstances? No sense in denying the comments, but they certainly need explanation and context.

The PR Verdict: “C” (Distinctly OK) for Romney’s response to this latest setback.   His response may have blunted some of the damage to the campaign, but he needs to do more.

The PR Takeaway: Distract and Switch should be the mantra of Team Romney’s campaign for the coming days. Change the topic of the conversation by pulling wife Ann or running mate Ryan into the media to talk about something completely different. Crisis moments like these have a shorter shelf life when something else fills the vacuum. With the Democrats milking the video for all its worth, the best advice to Romney is to cede the limelight over the next couple of days – the sooner the better.

What else can Team Romney do to mitigate this damage? Give us your PR Verdict!