Archives for March 2015

#Boycott Media Mistake

Remember that, when used correctly, media coverage can be a powerful communications tool for yourself and your brand. So, before making any statement to the media, ask if yours is a message that will help or harm. Fashion designers Domenico Dolce and Stephano Gabbana have recently offered personal opinions that did not reflect well on them or their brand to their customers.

In an interview with Italy’s Panorma Magazine, the two designers, both gay, came out against same-sex families and in vitro fertilization (IVF) . “I believe in a traditional family” Dolce said, “We oppose gay adoptions. The only family is the traditional one.” They went on to say that IVF children are “chemistry children and synthetic children.”

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Gabbana (left) Dolce (right). Photo courtesy of instinctmagazine.com

This final quote made headlines when Singer Elton John, part of a same sex family with his partner and two children (both via IVF), took to social media posting on instagram, “How dare you refer to my beautiful children as “synthetic”. And shame on you for wagging your judgmental little fingers at IVF – a miracle that has allowed legions of loving people, both straight and gay, to fulfill their dream of having children. Your archaic thinking is out of step with the times, just like your fashions. I shall never wear Dolce and Gabbana ever again. #BoycottDolceandGabbana.”

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Elton John (left) with his partner and children. Photo courtesy of babycenter.com

The call for boycotting the fashion company was answered by both celebrities and customers alike. The trending hash tag reached the top of USA’s Twitter trending list as well as ranking its popularity in between #boycottclippers and #boycottisraelapartheid. The unfortunate part of this growing boycott trend is how it came to be. Commenting on an issue such as same-sex families, which has no relation to a fashion brand, has caused a dramatic backlash. The two have since commented saying, “We love everything. It was just an expression of a private point of view.”

Mr. Dolce and Gabbana’s media mistake was being caught off guard without an answer to BRIDGE to. Media training allows famous and not so famous folks alike, to practice and edit their answers to tough questions BEFORE their words get into print.​ Keeping this in mind will help determine if you are using media coverage as a positive or negative communications tool.

 

“Token Fluzzies” Unite

Communication and presentation skills combined with appropriate branding can create the message desired, but not always the message received. The right message delivered by the wrong person is damaging and can both offend and distract from the issue or position.

The qualities of a media spokesperson must include charisma, relevance, credibility and above all, one who is appropriate and WANTED by the industry. The latter was not the case for self-appointed spokesman for women’s equality in technology, Vivek Wadhwa. A member of Singularity University, a Silicon Valley and Stanford University think tank, Mr. Wadhwa is being criticized as an un-appointed spokesman for women. According to the Executive Director of Double Union, a women’s studio for creativity in San Francisco,  ” Mr. Wadhwa has kept actual, qualified women’s voices from being heard widely in the mainstream media.”

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Mr. Wadhwa. Photo courtesy of New York Times

Women have criticized Mr. Wadhwa for, “clumsily articulating our cause.” Using quotes like, “token fluzzies” to describe them, many women take offense to this man being seen as their representative, harming the brand of women in technology and the identity of women executives throughout Silicon Valley. Blaming his poor English for many of his harmful quotes, Mr. Wadhwa is adamant that he only wishes to help women succeed. However, several women who know and have worked with him, including Sarah Szalavitz, the Chief Executive of 7 Robot, feel that while “his intentions are good, his message and his voice are actually damaging women.”

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Ms. Sandberg.Photo courtesy of Yahoo News

By contrast, Facebook’s COO Sheryl Sandberg has recently launched a new campaign, based on her book of the same title, “Lean In,” promoting gender equality in ads with NBA and WNBA players. As a woman with an executive position in technology, Ms. Sandberg has all the qualities desired for a good spokesperson on this issue. According to Ms. Sandberg, “Lean In,  is focused on encouraging women to pursue their ambitions, and changing the conversation from what we can’t do to what we can do.”

Even before the media training begins to craft the messages and coach the personality, the chosen spokesperson must be compatible with the issue. Spokespeople are not only important in branding the issue, but must be engaging and credible in the eyes of both the public and the sector they represent.

Caution and appropriateness are advised in all forms of media appearances, especially in ones as personal as spokespersoning.