O Magazine’s Crop Top Crisis

Erik Bernstein Crisis Prevention, Erik Bernstein, Jonathan Bernstein, public relations, reputation management Leave a Comment

A self-inflicted crisis for O, The Oprah Magazine

Failing to meet stakeholder expectations is an almost-certain way to create a crisis. O, The Oprah Magazine, found this out firsthand after creative director Adam Classman responded to a reader’s question, “Can I pull off a crop top?”, by writing, “If (and only if) you have a flat stomach.”

While this might not raise an eyebrow in some publications, it was not at all what readers expected from the Oprah brand. After all, the magazine, and Oprah herself, is all about embracing differences and empowering women.

Body shaming is a hot topic as of late, and Classman’s comment hit the court of public opinion quickly. Prominent campaigners against body shaming, including Plus Model Magazine and supermodel Tess Holliday of #effyourbeautystandards fame, called the magazine out and proud shares from full-figured women sporting their favorite crop tops began pouring in on Twitter. O responded fairly quickly with a brief statement, saying:

“We support, encourage and empower all women to look great, feel confident and live their best lives – in this case, we could have expressed it better. We appreciate the feedback and will be more mindful going forward.”

Weak.  Not the same as saying “in this case, we made a mistake and should have expressed ourselves more appropriately.”  And, although in many cases we would advise a more in-depth response, laying down the key message and getting the heck out of these was probably the right move from a crisis management standpoint. After all, there was really nothing to be said that wouldn’t further fan the flames.

When your local coal plant is found to be polluting more than reported, it’s not a major deal. Why? Because everyone expects it. An Oprah sponsored brand doing anything that even seems remotely like body shaming is far out of line with the culture surrounding it, and that’s why it caused a crisis.

Erik & Jonathan Bernstein

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