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P.R. Gone Wrong

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Photo Credit: Cyril Attias via Compfight

 

Abercrombie & Fitch is a retail store that has had its share of bad publicity over the years. It all started back in 2006 when the company was accused of purposely excluding plus-sized women from wearing clothing sold in their stores by not offering sizes above a large. However, clothing they made for men came in sizes up to XXL. The CEO of the clothing store, Mike Jeffries, commented on the accusations and his words upset a lot of consumers worldwide. Jeffries quoted, “we hire good-looking people in our stores because good-looking people attract other good-looking people, and we want to market to cool, good-looking people. We don’t market to anyone other than that.” When the world heard what the company had to say, a lot of negative remarks about the store were made and sales decreased. Tim Walker posted an article online that described this event as not only bad publicity, but also as a bad business move in general. While the company’s biggest rivals were adding larger sizes to accompany more consumers, Abercrombie didn’t budge. Jeffries made it clear that he wanted to deliver a certain look and he wasn’t going to change it. Although this isn’t the first time that a retail store has been accused of discrimination, it was the apology that the CEO made that really grabbed attention from the media and consumers.

Earlier this year, the quotes that Jeffries said resurfaced after a YouTube video was posted of a man giving Abercrombie & Fitch clothing to the homeless. After this video went viral, the CEO made a public apology that stated his words were taken out of context. Many people did not believe his apology was sincere and a riot against the company began. Petitions against the company were created and business started to drop. To solve this dilemma, the company invited members of the National Eating Disorders Association to the headquarters to discuss the events that took place. Many people are still upset about the situation, but some people think that the actions the CEO took were strictly business tactics.

Jim Joseph wrote an article that explained the strategical side of the situation. In his post, he state that when removing personal emotions from the equation, the business plan behind it all is revealed. Joseph says that Jeffries was simply defining his brand and what it stands for, which is a key to good marketing. By pinpointing who the targeting consumers are, Jeffries created a well-defined market for his business. He even states that the CEO’s speech was merely a publicity stunt to get attention from the media. When looking at the situation in this way, the company achieved the success they were looking for. I thought that this was a great example of ethics versus business. Although the company did not actually do anything wrong, the public deemed it as unethical, which hurt them in the long run. I believe that an earlier apology could have really helped the company out. Since Jeffries waited nearly four years before he apologized, consumers did not buy his sincerity and believed that he was only apologizing because he got caught. However, since the targeted market was not the ones who were upset by this behavior, I do believe that the company will be able to survive this downfall and continue to have a successful business.

Words From the Wise

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This past week I was able to talk with two highly qualified Public Relations Professionals. My first interview was with La Toya Keys,  a Brand Steward at Year Up. Keys has been in the Public Relations field since 2005 and has earned a Masters Degree in Public Relations and Advertising. During her time in Public Relations, she says that the dependency on media has been the biggest change.  Although La Toya has experience in many aspects of Public Relations, she says the project she is most proud of is her development of Elle Kay Events. Since she has always loved event planning, being able to run her own business is very rewarding for her.

Keys has proven herself not only as a successful Public Relations Specialist, but also as a strong and independent women. Hearing about her achievements made me wonder how it’s done. La Toya explained her typical week to me and talked about the sporadic events that take place depending on the her clients’ needs at that time. In order to be successful in such a spontaneous career, Keys says that getting a good education helps build a steady foundation but that getting the most hands-on experience that you can is best. Although Keys believes that having writing skills is crucial in order to receive the respect you need in this field, she recommends that all students wishing to pursue a Public Relations career get as many interning experiences as possible and keep up to date with social media networks since the field is constantly changing.

 

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My second interview was with Dr. Roland Huber. Dr. Huber has over 47 years of experience in the Communication field. He has published four books, had his own radio show, worked in television, and is currently an advocate for the child welfare system. Since Dr. Huber was raised as a ward of the state, the child welfare system is a very important part of his life. In this time of his life, his weeks usually consist of publicly speaking about his books and organization for abandoned children. His autobiography is the project he is most proud of because it speaks about his childhood and helped him discover who he is as a person.

Since Dr. Huber has such a broad range of experience, he says that he uses the internet and the youth to stay current. Since he is an author, writing has impacted his career greatly and contributed to a lot of his success. Even though Huber has a long list of accomplishments, he still wishes he would have taken more opportunities to get involved before going into his career. He also encourages all up and coming Communication students to be as involved as possible, complete as many internships as you can, and to start building a professional network now.

For more information on his organization or books, please check out his website.

After speaking with these professionals, I am more likely to have a career in Public Relations and Communication because I have now heard first-hand the success that can be built from this career field. As a student, I have learned to keep on building my networking and to take as many internships as possible, paid or not. Since hearing these tips from the pros, I am now more excited for my future in Communication.