Ono the OstrichCRISIS MANAGER
The Internet Newsletter about Crisis Management 
 Editor: Erik Bernstein 
 Publisher: Jonathan Bernstein

"For Those Who Are Crisis Managers,
Whether They Want to be or Not"


ISSN:1528-3836
2014 Jonathan Bernstein

Urban Outfitters, Kent State, and Why Reputation Matters


Volume XV, Number 17

September 17, 2014    

Just a Thought  

 
"Regard your good name as the richest jewel you can possibly be possessed of -- for credit is like fire; when once you have kindled it you may easily preserve it, but if you once extinguish it, you will find it an arduous task to rekindle it again."

- Socrates
 
From the Editor
 

The 1970 shooting of four peaceful protestors at Kent State have been labeled "The End of Innocence" for their impact on an entire generation, yet this past Monday a Kent State University sweater splattered with red appeared on the Urban Outfitters website.

The image went viral almost immediately as social media users voiced their disgust, and those affected by the shootings some four decades ago shared their pain, anger, and indignation with the world. Facing an deluge of criticism, Urban Outfitters issued the below apology:

Urban Outfitters sincerely apologizes for any offense our Vintage Kent State Sweatshirt may have caused. It was never our intention to allude to the tragic events that took place at Kent State in 1970 and we are extremely saddened that this item was perceived as such. The one-of-a-kind item was purchased as part of our sun-faded vintage collection. There is no blood on this shirt nor has this item been altered in any way. The red stains are discoloration from the original shade of the shirt and the holes are from natural wear and fray. Again, we deeply regret that this item was perceived negatively and we have removed it immediately from our website to avoid further upset.

Our immediate reaction was to think that that this was the worst kind of lie, especially given Urban Outfitter's history of purposely creating controversy with products referencing anorexia, addiction, and the Holocaust, just to name a few. Clearly the retailer has as little credibility with the public as it does with us, because nobody was buying it, and we saw much longer apology issued Tuesday giving a full explanation of how the sweatshirt came to be on their website:

Urban Outfitters would like to extend our sincerest apologies to Kent State University and the Kent State community. We are deeply saddened by the recent uproar our Vintage Kent State sweatshirt has caused. Though it was never our intention to offend anyone, we understand how the item could have been perceived negatively. The tragic events that took place in 1970 are not forgotten and our company regrets that people believe we would intentionally make light of such a horrific part of our nation's history. To promote such an event is disgraceful, insensitive and in poor taste. To further clarify, despite what has been reported, this is a vintage item and there is only one. Once the negative feedback was brought to our attention we removed the item immediately from sale. Urban Outfitters purchased the one-of-a-kind sweatshirt from the Rose Bowl Flea Market as part of our sun-faded vintage collection. There is no blood on the sweatshirt nor did we ever promote it as such. The discoloration that has been mistaken for blood is from natural fading and sun exposure. With all of that said, this truth does not excuse us from our failure to identify potential controversial products head on. We, as a company who caters to a college-age demographic, have a responsibility to uphold to our customers. Given our history of controversial issues, we understand how our sincerity may be questioned. We can only prove our commitment to improving our product-screening process through our actions and by holding ourselves accountable. Again, we sincerely apologize for this unfortunate misunderstanding and are dedicated to perfecting our internal processes to help avoid these issues in the future.

If you're struggling to explain to someone the importance of maintaining a reputation, all it takes is one look at the line, "Given our history of controversial issues, we understand how our sincerity may be questioned." Urban Outfitters has proven itself to be an organization that believes any publicity is good publicity, and now it must face the difficult realization that it's painted itself into a box as a result.

Of course, the question still remains as to how nobody on the string of Urban Outfitters employees who sourced the sweater, photographed it, selected pricing, and placed it on the website managed to give it a second thought. Speaking as someone who was born in the early 80's, I was still very much aware of Kent State, and it's difficult to believe that nobody who had their hand in this item's path had any idea, raising the issue of what type of corporate culture Urban Outfitters really has.

Shock marketing may get eyeballs on you, but take things too far and it can, and will, bite you in the ass eventually.
  
- Erik

 

Interested in reprinting BCM articles or blog posts?
We're happy to give permission for material to be reprinted in hard copy or online!

If you find something you would like to reprint, simply submit a request to jonathan@bernsteincrisismanagement.com.

 

Blogs!

Our blogs on the Bernstein Crisis Management page and at the Free Management Library are full of posts covering topics from reputation management, to social media, to crisis management case studies and more. 
 
In this section we take look at some of the most popular posts from recent weeks: 

Crisis Management Musts: Employee Communication explains how your own staff can become an amazing asset to crisis management, as long as you keep the communication flowing.

A blog from past weeks perfectly suits the topic of this issue's editorial; Shock Marketing Often Results in Need for Crisis Management covers another example of an organization that went too far and took a beating as a result.

Humble Crisis Management on the High Seas saved the crew of a boat trapped on the open ocean in the midst of Hurricane Julio.

Part of being a public figure is being very careful about what you say. Harry Reid Inserts Foot in Mouth, Flunks Crisis Management looks at an incident involving Senator Reid and some not-so-funny "humor" in Las Vegas that left the Asian American community fired up.

Need another reminder of the crises that hackers can create for you? Homeland Security Hack Exposes External Cyber Crisis Dangers discusses how a data breach at a contractor exposed personal information on applicants to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Compassion is one of the core values that must underlie any successful communication in crisis. Uncaring Crisis Management after Massive Hospital Data Breach is an example of what NOT to do when it comes to showing you care.

Few things are more important than Accountability and Reputation in the Internet Age. Learn how to keep your reputation intact, and how to take responsibility for your actions.

A guest article from Hungarian crisis communications expert Kornel Bohm, The Blank Flag, illustrates several different approaches to crisis management.
Apropos of Nothing

ATTENTION ANYONE FORMALLY ASSOCIATED WITH COLLEGES AND UNIVERSITIES IN THE WESTERN U.S.
 
I enjoyed my recent participation in the University of Oregon's "Guest Executive" program so much that I would love to do more of the same at other schools that aren't TOO far a trip from my Los Angeles-area base. Over a two-day period, UO had me guest lecture/teach at four PR-related classes and make an "open to the public" speech. They covered all travel costs and a modest honorarium.  
 
If you can do the same, please contact me, jonathan@bernsteincrisismanagement.com

 

Bernsteins Available to Deliver Free Guest Lectures, Q&A Sessions

 

Jonathan alone, or the team of Jonathan and Erik Bernstein, are available at no charge to deliver guest lectures and host Q&A sessions with college classes via Skype or Google Hangout. Our latest presentation was to Karen Freberg's social media class at the University of Louisville (shout out to any readers from the #Freberg14 crew!).

  

The lectures are fun for us and students, and we're more than happy to allow recording for your future use. All you need at your end is a single computer with webcam and a strong broadband connection for us to appear in your classroom in real-time.   

 

Contact us for more info!

 

Attention Corporate Boards of Directors (and those who serve them). 

 

If you're connected with a corporate board of directors in some way and think that board would benefit from having a veteran crisis management pro amongst its membership, please contact me. -- Jonathan

 

 

Business Announcements 

(aka blatant self-promotion) 

 

  

Are Your Social Media Managers Crisis Trained?

A solid social media manager has quickly become a must-have for organizations of any size, and can make an immense difference by driving in customers and building your positive reputation online.

The problem is, the vast majority are simply not equipped to even identify building crises, much less take the steps necessary to cope with and mitigate the damage that can result.

That's where we come in.

Bernstein Crisis Management is now offering crisis management training for social media managers, both independent and in-house, as well as social media firms.

For an overview of our services, estimates, or more information, contact erik@bernsteincrisismanagement.com

 

Traditional Social Media Training


Want to get your feet wet with social media but don't know where to start? Maybe you have accounts, but aren't sure what to post, or how to reply?

Being active on social media is a must these days, but you have to do it right. Erik Bernstein, Bernstein Crisis Management's Social Media Manager, now offers social media training sessions in person or via Skype for groups and individuals.

For questions or pricing info, please email erik@bernsteincrisismanagement.com

 

Expanded Crisis Manager Bookstore 

 

We've recently expanded the Crisis Manager Bookstore to include offerings from esteemed colleagues like Melissa Agnes, Gerald Baron, Chris Syme and Jim Lukaszewski that cover topics from crisis communication and traditional PR to social media and cutting-edge crisis management.  We'll be adding other authors we admire in the weeks ahead. 


Visit the new Crisis Manager Bookstore to see all of the  material available now!

  

Keeping the Wolves at Bay: Media Training 

Book Cover JPG

Learn how to deal with traditional or social media during a crisis in this educational and entertaining guide from

Crisis Manager publisher Jonathan Bernstein. 

 

$25 for hard copy, $10 for PDF.

 

Head to the Crisis Manager Bookstore for more information and/or to purchase.

MgrsGuideCover

 

Whether you're a seasoned manager, aspiring up-and-comer, or student of crisis management, Jonathan Bernstein's textbook,Manager's Guide to Crisis Management will put you in control of any situation. 

 

 


Guest Authors
 

Guest authors are very welcome to submit material for "Crisis Manager." There is no fee paid, but most guest authors have reported receiving business inquiries as a result of appearing in this publication. Case histories, experience-based lessons, commentary on current news events and editorial opinion are all eligible for consideration. Submission is not a guarantee of acceptance.

 


About Us

 

   Erik Bernstein

Jonathan Bernstein is both publisher of Crisis Manager and president of Bernstein Crisis Management, Inc., a national crisis management public relations agency providing 24/7 access to crisis response professionals. The agency engages in the full spectrum of crisis management services: crisis prevention, response, planning & training. He has been in the public relations field since 1982, following five-year stints in both military intelligence and investigative reporting.

Write to Jonathan at: jonathan@bernsteincrisismanagement.com.

Erik Bernstein is editor of Crisis Manager and Social Media Manager/Lead Social Media Trainer for Bernstein Crisis Management, Inc.

Write to Erik at: erik@bernsteincrisismanagement.com.

 


Legal Disclaimer (aka the small print)

All information contained herein is obtained by Jonathan Bernstein from sources believed by Jonathan Bernstein to be accurate and reliable. 

 

Because of the possibility of human and mechanical error as well as other factors, neither Jonathan Bernstein nor Bernstein Crisis Management is responsible for any errors or omissions. All information is provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Bernstein Crisis Management and Jonathan Bernstein make no representations and disclaim all express, implied, and statutory warranties of any kind to the user and/or any third party including, without limitation, warranties as to accuracy, timeliness, completeness, merchantability, or fitness for any particular purpose.  

 

Unless due to willful tortuous misconduct or gross negligence, Jonathan Bernstein and Bernstein Crisis Management shall have no liability in tort, contract, or otherwise (and as permitted by law, product liability), to the user and/or any third party.  

 

Under no circumstance shall Bernstein Crisis Management or Jonathan Bernstein be liable to the user and/or any third party for any lost profits or lost opportunity, indirect, special, consequential, incidental, or punitive damages whatsoever, even if Bernstein Crisis Management or Jonathan Bernstein has been advised of the possibility of such damages.  

 

A service of this newsletter is to provide news summaries and/or snippets to readers. In such instances articles and/or snippets will be reprinted as they are received from the originating party or as they are displayed on the originating website or in the original article. As we do not write the news, we merely point readers to it, under no circumstance shall Bernstein Crisis Management or Jonathan Bernstein be liable to the user and/or any third party for any lost profits or lost opportunity, indirect, special, consequential, incidental, or punitive damages whatsoever due to the distribution of said news articles or snippets that lead readers to a full article on a news service's website, even if Bernstein Crisis Management or Jonathan Bernstein has been advised of the possibility of such damages. Authors of the original news story and their publications shall be exclusively held liable. Any corrections to news stories are not mandatory and shall be printed at the discretion of the list moderator after evaluation on a case-by-case basis.

 

In This Issue
Just A Thought
Blogs!
Apropos of Nothing
Quick Links
Contact

SUBSCRIBE TO EZINE

BCM Blog

Management Library Crisis Management Blog

Connect with Bernstein Crisis Management

Like us on Facebook View our profile on LinkedIn Find us on Google+

 
Follow Jonathan

Follow us on Twitter View our profile on LinkedIn Find us on Google+

Follow Erik

Follow us on Twitter View our profile on LinkedIn Find us on Google+