For those not working in communications, sometimes the world of public relations can be somewhat abstract and mysterious–not everyone knows exactly the ins-and-outs of what we PR professionals do.
Brandon Truaxe of Deciem, a brand known more widely as the ‘Abnormal Beauty Company,’ could have hugely benefited from the services of our industry professionals leading up to his very public meltdown/announcement of closing his stores early last week.
Deciem, a Canadian beauty company with over 20 stores in five different countries, was founded in 2013 by Truaxe and has been disrupting in the beauty industry ever since by selling its high-quality products at an incredibly affordable price point.
This year, however, the company began making news not only for the merits of the products but also for the strange antics of their CEO and founder, Truaxe. It began with the takeover of the company’s Instagram account in January and culminated in closing the company’s stores last week due to wild accusations Truaxe made regarding criminal conduct taking place within the company.
Subsequently, Truaxe was removed from the board of directors and fired from his role as president and CEO.
PR is critical to businesses for countless reasons, but, specifically, could have prevented this unfortunate series of events and the consequences that resulted.
Using the example of Deciem, we illustrate the five major ways a good PR team can prevent a crisis, large or small:
A good PR team…
1… has extensive knowledge of communications technologies and how they can be used appropriately and effectively.
On January 24, Truaxe posted an Instagram video of himself on the Deciem account announcing that he cancelled all of Deciem’s marketing plans and would be personally taking over the Instagram account and responding to all comments and emails.
There are many issues with this decision. First, it’s important to have a marketing plan–it usually involves setting measurable goals than creating a long-term strategy to achieve them. Making adjustments to an existing plan (or even creating a new one entirely) is totally acceptable, but certainly not advisable without having an alternative plan in place.
It appears that Truaxe went rogue with the brand’s Instagram account. Which is a big deal because Instagram is a very valuable PR tool that, when used correctly, can significantly contribute to brand recognition and impact a company’s bottom line.
Because Truaxe didn’t have a plan and obviously had little to no knowledge of how to use this tool, he damaged the brand’s image the moment he took the account over.
He misused Instagram to such a degree that he started using comments in place of personal emails, mistakenly sharing sensitive insider information regarding employee terminations; he would often post long, rambling selfie videos of himself taking digs at Deciem’s competition and staff members; rather than the carefully curated and beautifully branded images the account used to share, he began sharing strange and inappropriate photos of piles of garbage and even a dead sheep; he started giving unsolicited advice and making rather racist remarks in his Instagram comments; he asks for help in a panic and claims his life is in danger in one instance at a private airport; and finally, he started social media feuds with his competitors among the countless other infractions he made on Instagram.
PR strategies should always be in place to manage social media tools effectively and be manned by social media specialists; even hashtags have become a science.
2… knows how to handle internal communications.
A PR team is made up of communications experts. This means, we excell in both internal and external communications. While our role in external communications is often our primary focus, we also help to facilitate internal dialogs concerning company policies, any important company changes and the internal communications tools that employees communicate with each other such as company events, interweb chat tools, etc.
In February, Truaxe took to Instagram to fire TJ Esho, a cosmetic doctor that helped create one of Deciem’s lip care lines. Esho was not given any warning prior to reading this post that his line would be discontinued.
Internal communications policies should always be in place to handle private and sensitive internal issues such as firing a collaborator. Taking to social media to handle these types of issues is not only disrespectful to the person on the receiving end (being fired is embarrassing enough without the whole world watching) but it sends up a huge red flag concerning the stability and wellbeing of the company.
3… means having branding experts at your disposal.
A major component of our work is to ensure your brand is being talked about for positive reasons. We find ways to make your brand recognizable and relevant that will be beneficial and instil an air of stability and growth.
A major issue with this case, over an above the glaringly obvious, is the brand name. When this story hit the news, I had no idea who Deciem was even though I’ve been in their store and purchased their products many times. I know Deciem as the ‘Abnormal Beauty Company.’ If you look at the signage at their stores, on their products and on their bags, it re-enforces that name rather than the name Deciem.
When it comes to branding, rule number one is to make sure your audience will remember your name. Or else, how can they find you again?Rule number two: when your brand comes up, make every effort to ensure it’s for it’s merits rather than controversy.
4… can create and distribute press releases.
In the event of a major company change, best practice is to create a press release containing all pertinent information to make the announcement to the public. One huge benefit of a press release is that it can (and should) be edited before it’s submitted to ensure that the information is being delivered as clearly as possible, leaving no room for misinterpretation. Once such sensitive information is released, you can’t get it back.
On October 8, rather than using a press release to announce that all Deciem stores would be closing indefinitely, Truaxe decided to take to Instagram and release a selfie video to make this announcement. And, he didn’t stop there. He continued on a rant accusing his employees of being involved in “major criminal activities” including “financial crimes.” He even went on to make outlandish threats to celebrities including Brad Pitt and Stephen Spielberg and peppered in some colourful language.
The only thing this announcement was missing was factual information. Why are the stores closing? Will they be reopened? When will they be reopened? Will products still be available online? What will happen to the thousands of employees? Since there have been some pretty serious accusations made, have charges been filed? What legal action has been taken? How does this affect stakeholders?
Closing any one store, let alone 20, has huge implications affecting the business, its employees and its customers; it’s important to be aware of who this information will affect and how, when making this announcement and to be as informative as possible.
This announcement fell well short of best practice and raise significantly more questions than it answered.
5… will have a crisis communication plan in place in case of an emergency.
Even when things are going great, it’s important to prepare for what could go wrong so if they do, you are ready to handle it. It’s far better to have a plan and not need it than to be caught without one and be left putting out fires.
The biggest PR imperative that Deciem illustrates over this past year is the importance of having multiple crisis communication plans in place in case of emergency.
You should have a contingency plan for issues big and small. What do you do if your social media strategy strays off course? What do you do if an employee at any level causes damage to the company’s reputation? What do you do if internal communication is mismanaged? What do you do if your company’s image is being tarnished in the media? How do you address those issues? What do you do if the company is struggling financially? How do you make announcements to the public?
These plans are critical to ensuring that your brand lands on its feet after a crisis. With the proper crisis communications plans in place, this crisis could have been prevented at every level.
No company wants to go through the scandal and trauma of dealing with any crisis, let alone a crisis of this magnitude. The best way to avoid this scenario: put together a team of PR professionals that can use their communication expertise to always put your brand’s best foot forward, prevent crisis and calamity before it occurs and plan for the unforeseen.
If you’re ready to put your PR dream team together, register below for a free one-hour consultation with Samari Communications, a Boutique PR agency in Toronto specializing in communication for fashion, beauty, technology and lifestyle brand.
- A Humber PR grad with a diverse background in the entertainment and fashion industries, Amanda Albert lends her experience to Samari Communication in her role as a PR Coordinator. Her 10+ years working in fast-paced, lively work environments enable her to assist her clients to effectively navigate today’s millennial culture in the ever-evolving PR industry. Her life-long love of fashion and its role in culture and the arts has inspired her to complete a collection of short stories. She is currently working on her second collection. You can find her on LinkedIn or contact her via email email@example.com.
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