Marie Claire is the latest big brand to get caught up in what can only be called a social media quagmire. This time around, it wasn’t the lack of a social media presence that fanned the flames of the online backlash. It was the fact that Marie Claire does have an online presence and could see the backlash first hand and they still refuse to take any ownership of what an employee posted on the magazine’s website, which now has many calling for a boycott of the fashion mag.
Two days ago Maura Kelly, a regular blogger at Marie Claire, wrote a blog post about the new CBS show “Mike and Molly.” This was no TV review—the blog was titled “Should ‘Fatties’ Get a Room? (Even on TV?).” That’s pretty rough from the start but the blogger goes even further saying
“So anyway, yes, I think I’d be grossed out if I had to watch two characters with rolls and rolls of fat kissing each other … because I’d be grossed out if I had to watch them doing anything. To be brutally honest, even in real life, I find it aesthetically displeasing to watch a very, very fat person simply walk across a room…”
That’s about enough. There are plenty more quotes that could be pulled but I’m not arguing that this post was despicable and should never have seen the light of a computer monitor. I think the nearly 1000 comments on the post do that just fine. What I find interesting is what Marie Claire is doing (or more importantly not doing) as a result.
This blog was published on the Marie Claire website. One of their regular bloggers has just jumped off the deep end and brought Marie Claire down with her. There is an outpouring of former Marie Claire fans and subscribers calling for boycotts. Their Facebook page is overrun with women who claim they are canceling their subscriptions and furthermore, will not support any affiliates of Marie Claire or their advertisers/sponsors. Ouch! That’s a pretty big threat from a lot of unhappy women. The next logical step would be for someone to issue some sort of formal apology acknowledging that the article could have been considered hurtful to some and it is being investigated internally or something along those lines to appease the angry mob. Instead, Marie Claire gave its fans/readers crickets. A full 24 hours into the storm, Marie Claire was silent. There were no posts on Facebook, no tweets, nothing on the website—that is of course aside from the completely unaware and unrelated topics that continued to populate their news feeds.
To her credit, Maura did eventually offer an apology on the blog late yesterday afternoon although many readers felt she was not taking responsibility for her actions. But at least she apologized. And judging by the fact her personal Facebook page has been pulled and her once thriving twitter feed is now silent, I don’t think she had much of a choice in the matter.
Finally, Marie Claire acknowledged the debacle yesterday evening on Twitter with the following tweet and a similar update on Facebook:
The problem with this, in my opinion, is that Marie Claire is taking no responsibility for their employee’s actions. Maura Kelly made these comments in a Marie Claire forum, not her personal website or some other media outlet. She is on Marie Claire payroll. Some editor in the bowels of Marie Claire’s office had to actually approve this content and think to themselves “yes, this is what Marie Claire readers want!”
Typically when these sorts of stories make the news with a backlash against a brand or company’s lack of response, it’s because they don’t have the channels in place. The infamous Dell fiasco from years ago became infamous because Dell had no social media presence at the time so there was no one to hear the cries of their customers and offer a response. But Marie Claire already has a social media presence online. When the comments first started brewing on Maura’s blog post, Marie Claire was still tweeting and updating Facebook on other articles and goings-on that were being sandwiched by the backlash. One commenter on Marie Claire’s Facebook page posed the question “So Marie Claire, should we take your lack of an apology as a silent approval of the article? Dehumanizing women is okay as long as their fat?”
Some have asked if Marie Claire knew exactly what they were doing and this was all some sort of PR stunt. But I can’t imagine that the editors would have been on board with such a stunt that would jeopardize a number of subscriptions and potential/current advertisers. I can’t see how this stunt would be beneficial to Marie Claire’s bottom line. Which begs the question, why aren’t they acting on it? Their website still highlights the blog post with no signs of any comments from the company and their social media profiles accept no responsibility for the article whatsoever. They acknowledge it only to pass the blame on to the blogger admitting that she has apologized. I just don’t understand how no one from Marie Claire feels that the company should be doing damage control. Their lack of action is causing more damage than the article did in the first place.
So what’s the lesson for other business owners out there? Just having a social media presence isn’t enough. You must have a plan. You must be aware and know when and how to react. You must acknowledge customer service and PR issues because doing nothing only exacerbates the problem. You must be willing to admit fault, learn from those mistakes and move on. Because tweeting like nothing happened is actually worse than not tweeting at all.
So what do you think? Should Marie Claire step up and apologize on behalf of the company or continue passing the blame onto the blogger?