: Crisis response

Sheer Brilliance or Cheeky Cover-up?

PR Daily last week praised Lululemon's "sheer brilliance" in managing the flap over its see-through yoga pants. However, comments responding to its story hinted that the controversy and the company's troubles aren't over yet.

The British Columbia-based athletic apparel company recalled a batch of its black luon pants in March after complaints that the fabric was too sheer and revealing when women bent over. The company endured a lot of cheeky humor, unfavorable media attention and lower stock prices. But PR Daily proclaimed Lululemon handled the crisis in textbook fashion.

Elissa Freeman posted on March 26 that Lululemon owned the peaking bum problem once it became aware of it, kept the media informed, stayed in contact with its brand ambassadors (yoga instructors and personal trainers) and even managed to laugh at itself. Her post featured a picture of the front window of a Lululemon store in Toronto with its models displaying their rears and a sign that read, "We want to be transparent with you."

The same story quoted Jason Inglis, a Toronto personal trainer and Lululemon brand ambassador, as saying, "This issue will only make Lululemon that much stronger because they will pay even more attention to detail. This company strives on separating themselves from not just being good, but being great."

Kevin Allen, writing for PR Daily last week, sustained the upbeat theme as Lululemon announced the return of its yoga pants with more boffo in the bottom. Allen cited a Lululemon blog post that talked about how it looked "at every aspect of this fabric" and even asked university scientists to develop a "sheer-o-metre" to measure how much light perforates different fabrics.

Content, Engagement Key Tools in Crisis

Content and engagement are often overlooked assets in responding to a crisis.Digital media can play a pivotal role in any crisis response, but its role is enhanced if a website is more than an electronic brochure and social media a megaphone for marketing messages.

A website with meaty content is a better vehicle for responding in a crisis because it offers context and a point of view. Your crisis response can follow in the tracks of your ongoing narrative and reflect the values you have espoused. It gives readers a compass, not just a platform.

Likewise, engaging social media affords your crisis response a familiar voice. This can avert stiff, legalistic-sounding apologies, which sound formulaic and inauthentic.

When Nike faced sharp criticism for its offshore manufacturing contracts, the Beaverton-based sports apparel company converted its online business presence into a forum to describe what it was doing to improve the lives of foreign workers. This was a more meaningful and tangible response than a program tucked away in a corporate social responsibility brochure. It certainly had more positive impact than ignoring the criticism.