With light shining on the dark crevices where sexual assault and harassment stories are covered up, many women — as well as some men — are revealing that they’ve survived peril with the #metoo hashtag.
And if brands don’t have anything good to say about this, then they shouldn’t say anything at all, says a crisis communications firm.
Fashion icon Donna Karan fell on the wrong side of this awareness by defending Hollywood’s Harvey Weinstein, who is accused of serial sexual assault. Two Hollywood icons, however, made what the crisis communication firm termed the right moves.
Only Crisis — crisis communications specialists, with services including media training and reputation management — analyzed all three brands before the #metoo hashtag went viral on Sunday, but the marketing lessons still apply.
In “Avoiding Scandal By Association,” Chris Gilmour writes on Oct. 12 for Only Crisis that no comment is better than the wrong comment.
“If your name or brand is likely to be involved with scandal by association, it’s best not to put yourself forward for comment,” writes Gilmour. “But if this is unavoidable, give a measured response, and don’t try to deny your links to the scandal-hit person/brand.”
On Monday, the Guardian said actor Alyssa Milano spurred the social media trend by sharing her friend’s idea in the wake of allegations against Weinstein. Prompting survivors of sexual assault and harassment that they could show those paying attention that Weinstein’s alleged actions may not be rare.
If you’ve been sexually harassed or assaulted write ‘me too’ as a reply to this tweet. pic.twitter.com/k2oeCiUf9n
— Alyssa Milano (@Alyssa_Milano) October 15, 2017
Milano’s campaign spread far beyond the tweet’s 41,000 comments, 15,000 retweets and 30,000 likes.
#MeToo spread quickly on Facebook on Sunday and Monday. In a constantly fluctuating ticker, Facebook showed at 12:17 p.m. that “169,188 people are talking about this now.” [Author’s note: Not all posts about the subject are hashtagged — for privacy reasons. Only family and friends of the poster could see many of the conversations.]
On Monday afternoon, 328,270 Instagram posts also had the hashtag.
What Not to Do in Such a Brand Crisis
The Only Crisis article says Donna Karan dove right into the Harvey Weinstein furor by telling “the Daily Mail that sexually harassed women may be ‘asking for it’ by dressing seductively, adding: ‘You look at everything all over the world today and how women are dressing and what they are asking by just presenting themselves the way they do. What are they asking for? Trouble.’
“Karan, who is a personal friend of Weinstein’s wife, was then asked whether the film mogul had been ‘busted’ and replied: ‘I don’t think it’s only Harvey Weinstein.’”
On Oct. 10, USA Today reported that Weinstein’s wife — Marchesa designer Georgina Chapman — was leaving him.
— Mark Olmsted (@MarquisMarq) October 10, 2017
Shortly after Karan’s statements, the #BoycottDonnaKaran hashtag appeared, Gilmour writes:
“It doesn’t matter that she actually sold her company many years ago, and that Donna Karan International and the DKNY brand are currently owned by G-III Group,” reads the Only Crisis piece. “The company has suffered a share price drop and is now battling a social media storm …
“Consumers don’t care who owns the company,” Gilmour continues. “It carries her name and she is the figurehead of the brand — a designer who has dressed countless women in the sexy way in which she claims may be ‘asking for it.’ A designer whose primary market is young women, looking for a label which represents female empowerment.”
What to Do in Such a Brand Crisis
Admit association, Only Crisis advises.
George Clooney played it perfectly, by clarifying that despite being close to Weinstein, he’d “never seen any of this behavior — ever” and calling it “indefensible.”
Dame Judi Dench took a similar tack, saying: “Whilst there is no doubt that Harvey Weinstein has helped and championed my career for the past 20 years, I was completely unaware of these offences which are, of course, horrifying, and I offer my sympathy to those who have suffered, and wholehearted support to those who have spoken out.”
Only Crisis concludes with this advice:
No matter how righteous your intentions, scandals — particularly sexual ones — are to be avoided at all costs. Brand reputation can only be damaged by entering the fray.
If you can’t give a socially acceptable comment, stay silent.
What do you think, marketers?
Please respond in the comments section below.