Clothing and accessories merchant The Children’s Place apologized on social media this week for what many considered an offensive message on a girls’ t-shirt (See a sampling of tweets from outraged consumers here).
But how did The Children’s Place handle the social media crisis?
According to Valorie Luther, founder of marketing, public relations and social media consulting firm Creative Concepts, the true test of managing a crisis is not only in what you do today, but what your actions may be concerning the same brand issues tomorrow.
“[The Children’s Place] has apologized and pulled the shirt, which is great,” Luther said. “But will they change an internal process so they honor girls in the future instead of stereotyping?”
If positive changes occur she said, then the brand can prove that through social media and of course the products they sell.
The message on the T-shirt says: “My best subjects” and has a checklist of shopping, dancing, music and math, according to an article on WFSB.com. Math is the only box not checked and has the words “well, nobody’s perfect” underneath it.
Here is how The Children’s Place responded on Facebook: “We take feedback from our customers very seriously. It has come to our attention that some of you view our Best Subjects T shirt as insensitive towards girls and women. This was not our intent. There are countless women in all walks of life who excel in math, including our very own CEO. We have pulled this product from our stores and we want to express our apologies to anyone we may have offended.”
The Children’s Place shared this apology on Twitter:
We take feedback from our customers seriously. We pulled the tshirt from our stores and express apologies to anyone we may have offended.
— The Children’s Place (@childrensplace) August 6, 2013
Consumers on Facebook, Twitter and Google+ all reacted negatively to the message conveyed on the t-shirt. Many consumers were not quick to accept the brand’s apology.
According to Luther, first and foremost, be honest in whatever the situation is. If there is a backlash, the idea is to acknowledge what people are saying.
Luther said before you come out with a statement, bring all the players together for the brand in deciding how you want to handle the situation, what the feelings are and what strategy you plan to implement through traditional public relations methods, social media and other ways you as a brand communicate.
Aside from providing an apology, listen. Listening is a big deal, according to Luther.
Luther said bad publicity will prevent people from being a long-standing customer.
“It’s about the internal process and how you communicate, she said. “You should always have a basic guideline in place in how to handle a crisis.”
According to Luther, if the backlash for a particular brand is really bad, her clients will take the conversation offline. They have found that taking the situation offline and in-person is very valuable.
“Everybody has a valid opinion, it’s all about people to people, it’s about making a personal connection,” said Luther.