A PR crisis can arise from any kind of communication with the public—including job postings.
Optus, an Australian telecommunications company, is taking fire over a job advertisement that was seeking an “Anglo-Saxon” retail assistant.
The company said it preferred Anglo Saxon candidates who lived close to the store.
“Fantastic opportunity for those seeking a career in retail and sales,” the ad also said.
Optus took down the ad and apologized on Friday after facing a storm of criticism. The company told CNN the ad had been posted on an external jobs site, and was up for roughly eight hours.
“This is an error and completely unacceptable and a clear breach of our advertising standards and our commitment to equal opportunity,” Vaughan Paul, the company’s vice president of human resources, said in a statement.
The ad was placed by a retail location in an affluent area of in Australia’s most-populous city, Sydney. However, the controversy has affected the whole chain, and officials are promising consequences for those involved.
“Optus proudly supports diversity and employs staff representing more than 70 nationalities,” Optus’s human resources vice-president Vaughan Paul said on Friday. “This error is completely unacceptable and a clear breach of our advertising standards and commitment to equal opportunity employment.”
Paul said Optus would be looking to take “disciplinary action” against those involved.
The company also took to social media to defend its record on diversity and inclusion.
Optus proudly supports diversity and inclusion. A job advert posted on a website today is a clear breach of Optus values and our commitment to equal opportunity employment. We’ve removed the advert and are investigating how this occurred and offer an unreserved apology.
— Optus (@Optus) April 13, 2018
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Many were stunned by the gaffe:
— Ketan Joshi (@KetanJ0) April 13, 2018
Others promised to switch their provider:
Thanks @Optus for coming out. I’ve been a loyal customer for 14 years and so have other thousands of non Anglo-Saxon Australians. I’ll now switch to another network provider. I also hereby call upon other non Anglo-Saxon Australians to boycott @optus immediately. https://t.co/YqWUUnfdII
— Maker Mayek – The Black Anglo-Saxon (@MakMayek) April 13, 2018
Others noted that the ad was in violation of Australian employment law:
Under the Racial Discrimination Act, it is unlawful to discriminate on the grounds of race in employment https://t.co/Pt7oUWfyZu
— Tim Soutphommasane (@timsout) April 13, 2018
Others had more fun with the specificity in Optus’ request:
That’s very, very specific. Not just any white person – only Anglo-Saxon. That’s a special kind of racism 🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣 @Optus
— Marcia Langton (@marcialangton) April 13, 2018
Just me on my way to hand in my resume. pic.twitter.com/BD0ojCaEKb
— Robin Ayo (@r0b1n86) April 13, 2018
— Guido Tresoldi (@GuidoTresoldi) April 13, 2018
typical Optus employee on his way to work … pic.twitter.com/RwGjlkU79F
— Jonathan Green (@GreenJ) April 13, 2018
The crisis for Optus comes as many companies are facing backlash over racially insensitive statements and advertisements, both globally and domestically. Heineken apologized for advertisement that said “sometimes lighter is better,” and H&M faced criticism for a print ad that portrayed a young black boy as the “coolest monkey in the jungle.”
PR pros should be careful to consider the optics of their statements and run potential messages past a diverse test audience, or they risk social media furor.
In Optus’ case, an investigation has been launched to find a responsible party and protect the brand’s reputation. Reporters talked to residents in the Neutral Bay neighborhood, who were also appalled by the ad.
Neutral bay local Norman Hussey, 74, said he could not believe a business would advertise something like that in 2018.
“They should really have a long hard look at themselves,” he said.
Another local, Astrid Smith, 61, said it was “wrong”.
“It’s breaking the law isn’t it?” she said. “I’ve been living in the area for 30 years, and yes, it would stop me going in that store.”
Tom Carlin, 23, said it was “un-Australian” to discriminate like that.
“We’re an inclusive nation, and they should realise that,” he said,
How would you advise Optus to restore its reputation?