The recent revelation that JD Sports has suffered a data breach makes it the latest fashion brand to find itself having to manage a crisis. As the leading media training company for fashion and clothing brands, we regularly advise clients, working closely with their PR companies, on how to do interviews and manage the message when such situations occur.
We’re receiving more requests for help in this area – and you can see why. A few weeks ago, for instance, Adidas ended its sponsorship deal with the rap star Kanye West following his anti-Semitic comments. Then, the brand lost in court against designer Thom Browne after it had claimed that Browne’s four stripe-design was too similar to its three stripes. Meanwhile, labels such as Levi’s, H&M and Superdry have had to unveil disappointing financial results, and Harvey Nichols, responding to that perennial controversy about fur, has announced it will go fur-free.
What are the risks and crisis communications issues that fashion and clothing brands face? And what can their PR agencies and in-house Comms teams do to be ready to handle them?
Risks facing fashion brands and clothing companies
One of the most prominent risks for fashion brands and clothing companies we provide crisis communications is supply chains. These days consumers, governments and regulators are, alongside pressure groups and charities, increasingly interested in the various stages of clothing labels’ supply chains. We know that brands and manufacturers work hard to ensure they don’t contravene child labour laws and support local communities wherever possible.
But with supply chains becoming longer and more complex and many clothing labels having to source materials, finished and semi-finished goods from different regions and manufacturers, the risks here are more significant than ever. We work with a wide range of companies to ensure that should an unhelpful story break in the media – conventional or social – about their supply chain; they’re well prepared to manage it. Lines to take are prepared, and spokespeople know what to say to journalists about the issue.
Media interviews about sustainability issues for fashion labels
Related to this, sustainability is another issue frequently featured in our crisis communications workshops for fashion retailers and others. We help companies to deal with allegations that their sourcing and production techniques, from fabrics to dyes and distribution, are not sustainable. As we do with other subjects, we work with fashion brands’ PR companies and in-house comms teams to develop realistic scenarios relating to sustainability. Then we put these to the spokespeople, give them time to prepare and then carry out role-play press interviews.
Afterwards, we provide feedback and recommendations on the messages that came across and how they came across – did the spokespeople sound confident and believable? Were they sympathetic and human?
As is the case with JD Sports, a data breach is another subject for a media scrum. Because hacking is increasingly common, instances are now featured in mainstream reports. Data breaches are also newsworthy because we can all relate to them – are we customers of JD Sports? Have we ever been? Is our banking information being shared on the dark web? If I’m the CIO or CISO of a big company, I’m worrying about this news for professional reasons.
How does the course work?
In our crisis media coaching courses for fashion brands, we help the spokespeople, PR agencies, and the in-house Comms teams of major clothing brands to prepare for data breaches. We work with them on lines to take and advise on what to say and how to say it by carrying out role play press, radio and TV interviews. We’ll also set up doorstep interviews – teaching people how to manage those frightening ambushes by the media.
Because all our trainers are experienced, working journalists (working on strict non-disclosure agreements), the people who do our media training courses get a realistic crisis interview. We know precisely the kind of questions that journalists will ask – because we’re journalists ourselves!
Crises aside, we can help clothing and fashion companies to handle complex issues. This might be the use of fur or questions about sustainability generally. Again, we know what the media will ask, and we can help press officers, brand managers and senior executives not only to develop a line to take on these issues but to go further in their communications. Through interviews and questioning, we can help them to develop an entire narrative that will allow them to develop and promote their strategies. Instead of just defending the brand on complex issues, they can turn these challenges into opportunities and make what could be seen as a negative issue into a positive one.
Media Training Provider
All of our crisis communications courses for fashion labels, manufacturers and retailers are created from scratch to meet the needs of that particular brand. Talk to us about how we can help you to manage your risk and be ready should a problematic situation occur. As we say, it’s better to do a crisis communications course before you actually need it.