Offending everyone is not a sound marketing strategy

Today’s guest blog is by Waterville, Maine’s, best lawyer (and my sister-in-law,) Joan Phillips-Sandy.

gloriasteinem5The recent Lands’ End – Gloria Steinem flap looks like a totally mismanaged PR incident to me. First, Lands’ End ticked off the anti-abortion/anti-choice folks (including some Christian schools who buy uniforms there) by featuring Ms. Steinem, and then aggravated the pro-choice folks by apologizing and taking the Steinem feature off its website.

I’m not a PR professional, but how could Lands’ End not know that featuring noted feminist/activist Gloria Steinem would engender controversy? The interview, by CEO Federica Marchionni, was the start of its Legend Series, highlighting people who “made a difference.” Although the interview did not mention abortion, how hard is it to realize that of course Ms. Steinem supports abortion rights? And do they not realize that abortion is one of the most divisive and controversial issues of our times? It should not have been at all surprising that Lands’ End came under attack from those who oppose abortion rights.

When the inevitable occurred, the company’s hasty and ill-conceived response made things worse. It apologized. In addition to stating that it did not intend to endorse any particular political or religious viewpoint, it immediately removed the interview. This caused a firestorm of protest from pro-choice people who saw the response as siding with pro-lifers. So despite its assertion that it did not intend to take sides, Lands’ End did.

Recent media reports note that controversy has propelled Donald Trump to the top of the GOP heap. Maybe that’s what Lands’ End was trying to do?


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