Kudos to Trelise Cooper for fronting to the issue, saying it straight and getting it out there following her Headdress mishap.
"I genuinely respect and honour all cultures, races and religions. It was never my intention to disrespect another culture. It is my hope that through my mistake and ignorance, like me, people now know and are aware of the Sacredness of the head dress to Native Americans. To those who I have offended, I sincerely apologise," were her words, first on social media and then dutifully picked up by the mainstream.
She's every crisis manager's dream client, addressing the issue head on, no ifs, buts or defences.
She's also doing herself an enormous favour and shortening the life-cycle of the story. I can't count the number of calls that I've had over the past 20 years that start with 'we just want to shut it down' from people with misguided notions about 'playing' the media (and in turn, the public), operating under the misguided notion that all of that convulated, twisty, turny squirming will actually work in their favour. It never does. And all the time they spend working up House of Cards-ian messaging plots and plans is just time added to the backpedal on the other side. Scores more column centimetres, thousands more twitter characters, and countless more Facebook posts than ever needed to exist.
So how did Trelise get it right?
1. She moved fast. She clearly knew what her position would be and how she would handle it before the issue even hit, because her brand values and PR philosophy is clearly defined. Both told her (or her people) how to respond quickly effectively and congruently. Lesson: crisis time is not the time to be working out whether you're a responder or a non-responder, transparent or opaque, upfront or demure. You (and your brand) should know these things long before any crisis ever hits
2. Clearly debate didn't hold her up. If she had advisors, a board or others to consult with, they were clearly on the same page already. Lesson: crisis time is not the time for team building.
3. She went social and she wasn't afraid to go there. Man, that must have been scary. I can only imagine the tirades that came right on back, and that are probably still swirling around. Sometimes you just can't wait for the good old fashioned crossed 'ts' and dotted 'is' of mainstream media, and this is one of them. Lesson: have the guts to go there. But know it's going to be brusing.
4. Her apology was complete, focused on the other side (and in no way trying to defend her actions) and plausible. Content wise, it covered everything it needed to. Tone and style-wise, it was respectful and unambiguous enough to stand as a final word, without leaving wriggle room for cynics to poke at. Lesson: there's no such thing as half-fronting up. Do it, or don't do it. But don't torture yourself (and your brand) by trying to do some sort of weird hybrid of the two in the name of pride.
Classy. Makes me want to go out and buy a frock.