Author: Gina Mason
If you haven’t heard, Lululemon needs some PR help! Since March, the yoga-inspired athletic wear company has faced its fair share of PR problems and things don’t seem to be getting any better. Between the sheer yoga pants recall and the most recent offensive window display (that insulted a charity that raises money for women’s shelters), Lululemon’s PR team has had their hands full cleaning up one mess after another.
As if things could not get any worse for the brand, last week Lululemon’s co-founder, Chip Wilson appeared on Bloomberg TV and sparked yet another controversy by insulting women with large thighs. Wilson’s interview is just another example of why it is so important that spokespeople are properly trained to work with the media and know how to conduct themselves during an interview.
First let me start off by saying, I knew this interview was off to a bad start when he began the segment talking about “WHIL,” a 60 second method of meditation. After the description of “WHIL,” Wilson went on to say, “the only time I had to do it [meditate] was when I went to the washroom to take a pee, so we call it maximizing pee time.” Obviously, that was not the best example or choice of words, but it was quickly overshadowed by his next comment.
Then the reporter asked, “what is going on with the pants?” An inevitable question that Wilson, his PR team and all of the viewers knew was coming and quite frankly, a question that he should have been properly prepared for. At first, his answer was on the right track as he admitted that Lululemon made some mistakes and took responsibility for the issues with the pants.
However the tables turned when he uttered, “some women’s bodies don’t work with [the pants]…it’s really about the rubbing through the thighs, how much pressure is there over a period of time, how much they use it.” Although, Wilson did not come out and say that Lululemon pants are not made for plus-size women, he implied it by saying that the “sheerness and pilling” was due to certain body shapes. (Apparently, he did not learn anything from Abercrombie & Fitch CEO Mike Jefferies when he said, “skinny is cool”).
Wilson’s interview sparked outrage among consumers and to make matters worse, led to reports of Lululemon discriminating against plus-size women by not carrying larger sizes in certain stores. As a result, many consumers are boycotting the brand and in the last week, its stock prices have gone down four percent. In hopes to repair the problem, Wilson posted a video apologizing for his statement on the Lululemon’s Facebook account and received even more backlash for seeming insincere.
This is just one example of how one simple interview can be extremely detrimental to a brand (especially, in the world of social media and the 24 hour news cycle) and why media training is so important when companies have experienced a crisis. Anyone speaking on behalf of a company should be trained, briefed and completely prepared for any and all questions. Spokespeople are the voice of the brand and need to be equipped to represent the brand in the best way possible.
What did you think of Wilson’s interview? How do you think this will affect Lululemon in the future? We welcome any and all comments.
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