Was Lululemon’s yoga-pants video apology a good idea?

Founder Chip Wilson apologized for asserting that somewomen’s bodies aren’t right for Lululemon pants. Perhaps his damage-control efforts created an even bigger crisis.

A bad media interview caused by insufficient media training is creating a crisis communication problem online.

Experts will weigh in on this, but I don’t think anyone has the absolute best way to handle this. I really want to know what you think.

The former CEO of Lululemon has posted a video to the company Facebook apologizing for comments he made in an interview on Bloomberg Television. Read the full details of what happened here.

As I write this, nearly 500 people have clicked “like” on this particular Facebook post, and more than 700 comments — mostly negative — have been posted.

I have a couple of crisis communication questions for readers:

1. Do you think Chip Wilson has made the situation better or worse by attempting to apologize on Facebook for comments he made on television?

2. Do you think the situation is getting better or worse on the Facebook brand page as the company’s public relations and social media teams try to engage in a conversation with those who post comments?

Without providing an answer to those questions, here is something to consider: Each time the public relations and social media team replies to a comment on the Facebook post, it moves the discussion higher in the news feed of the page followers, increasing the odds that someone new will jump into the conversation.

This raises more questions:

  • Was it a big mistake to take this discussion to Facebook?
  • Could this apology have found a better home in the company’s newsroom?
  • Was the apology itself poorly worded, leading to additional negative comments?
  • Was the apology made only to employees and not to customers?
  • If the apology was to employees only, should it not have been posted where only employees would see it?
  • Could all of this crisis on the back end been eliminated by doing things differently on the front end?

My wife and I had a couple of basic rules when we were raising our two daughters. One was that you never have to fix the big things if you fix the little things.

In this case, the lesson for all PR people, CEOs, and executive spokespeople is to understand that the apology would never have been needed if Wilson had not offered a foolish ad lib in the interview. The foolishness would have been headed off if executive media training had been done prior to the original interview.

I’m amazed on a daily basis at how undervalued media training is among executives and public relations teams.

In every media training class that I teach, I challenge the CEO or spokesman with this question, “If you could attach a dollar to every word that you say, would you make money or lose money?”

Of the more than 700 comments on the Lululemon Athletica Facebook page about this issue, many clearly say they will no longer buy the company’s product. Need I say more to prove my point? I think not.

In every crisis you should consider my “Crisis Rule of Thirds,” which states that one-third of the people love your company/brand, one-third will hate your company/brand, and the third in the middle will swing like a pendulum, based on what is popular at the moment.

In a social media crisis, in a world that is already filled with negative comments, I think many companies will lose the battle, lose the war, lose customers, and lose money.

Consider this: Delete the video, delete the Facebook post, and stop talking about it.

What do you think? Please offer your thoughts in the comments section.


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