Tiffany & Co’s new campaign “About Love” featuring Beyoncé wearing its 128.54-carat yellow Tiffany diamond “is not about love at all,” reports NBC, the diamond’s “82 facets reflect an ugly truth and an unfinished story of white supremacy and colonialism that is difficult to ignore.”
The Times in London reports that Beyoncé has been “accused of helping to blackwash [this] ‘blood diamond’.” As well as reveal that Audrey Hepburn has also worn the diamond, the paper points out: “The singer’s appearance with the diamond drew attention to its origins at a time when British colonial authorities imposed harsh practices against African mine labourers, a precursor to racial segregation under apartheid rule and a template for foreign profiteering from the continent’s natural resources.”
This row, which is widely reported elsewhere, is another case of a luxury brand provoking negative headlines and being forced to swing into defensive mode.
As the leading media training consultancy for luxury brands, we regularly work with companies to help them not only to handle crises but to pre-empt these problems. During our message development and testing sessions with the Comms teams, marketing departments and PR consultants of luxury clothing, accessory, retail, automotive and other sectors, we analyse marketing messages, celebrity endorsements and campaign themes and slogans. We can then identify where complex issues might arise and where journalists might spot the trouble or scandal that is such an essential part of the media business.
And because we use experienced, working journalists under strict nondisclosure agreements, we can frequently bring a fresh pair of eyes to point out where an apparently innocuous campaign or media message could have an implicit risk.
With our media training courses for luxury brands, we can then train spokespeople to promote positive messages about these new campaigns and handle any difficult issues that might arise.
Working closely with the PR and marketing teams of luxury houses, we advise on how these messages might be tweaked or how the brands can respond if criticised. We help to develop messages, identify spokespeople and advise on channels of communication.
Ideally, in our media training courses for luxury brands, we will help pre-empt any kind of adverse publicity, but every now and then, a company will suddenly come under the media spotlight and face a crisis situation. It could be as a result of a campaign such as the one that Tiffany has launched with Beyoncé. It could be around the supply chain, or it could be an alleged incident in a store or show. Whatever the situation, it’s essential that luxury brands move quickly to handle media enquiries and neutralise this bad publicity.
As well as advising on what to say and how to say it, we also work with the communications teams and PR consultancies of luxury brands to help identify how a difficult incident might arise and how they would know about it. In these situations, “information in” is just as important a consideration as the next age, the response, which we call “information out.”
The idea is that, as the senior management of a luxury house, you want to know that something has gone wrong before journalists or social media start telling the rest of the world about it. We used to talk to her in crisis communications about “the golden hour.” This was the period during which an organisation that was suffering an adverse event could either get on the front foot and take the initiative or fumble it and spend the entire news cycle on the defensive, trying to catch up with events and reacting to adverse comments.
These days, that period is nearer 15 minutes, we calculate. So, it’s even more critical that luxury brands are primed to respond to challenging situations and to manage them quickly and effectively. Brand image is an essential part of the value of luxury houses, probably even more so than is the case with other brands. Damage to that image can affect adversely share price and overall company value.
That’s why in these days of increasingly aggressive social media, growing concerns about ethical issues and more vocal consumers. We’re finding that there’s greater demand than ever for our media training and crisis communications training for luxury brands.
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