Thursday, March 27, 2014

Was SELF Magazine In the Wrong? Or Are They In the Right? | My Professional Opinion

The social media world is all a buzz about the SELF Magazine picture mocking a LA Marathon 2013 runner wearing a tutu.

Photo:  SELF Magazine, April 2014

Since my daily work in Social Media Management and Public Relations, I have been bombared with questions and more questions.

Here is my opinion and it is only my professional opinion.  

  • It was very irresponsible for the SELF reporter not to disclose the purpose of the photo in question.  However, looking at the photo - the runner has a personalized bib of DIE TUMOR DIE.  It's there, literally in black & white. One would hope if they saw the bib they would think "what does that mean?"
  • The reporter obviously didn't look at the bibs - it's an LA Marathon bib, not a NY Marathon bib.  That's even more obvious.  
  •  I do believe that the SELF magazine reporter did NOT mean to mock a cancer patient/survivor. They were mocking the tutu and her costume.   In no way did the reporter mention she was a cancer survivor, and I do believe that common sense would have prevailed if the reporter had known the back story to this photo.  
  • Can she sue the magazine? She can sue, but it is doubtful she would win. This falls under Freedom of Speech and Freedom of the Press.  There are no guarantees of accuracy in the media/press.  SELF magazine lawyers will know that.  To win a lawsuit, she would need to claim bodily, financial and emotional harm.  If anything, her tutu sales will go WAY up because of this incident.  People are rallying behind her to help her out.  YOU GO GIRL - make lemonade out of lemons!
My concern?  The lame way (yes, I use the word lame) that SELF Magazine has apologized. It was mocking and without any remorse.  Behind-the-scenes, I am going to bet the Editor-in-Chief and lawyers are sweating bullets.  This is a PR nightmare and no matter what they do, it will be wrong.  However, they do need to issue a better response now, not later. With every hour they continue on as business as usual and not address the hoards of angry subscribers and fans, the worse it gets.  Posting about summer glowing skin on FB is not what they should be doing right now.  Focus on the task at hand, eat crow and move on.  In my opinion, they will gain much more respect by being forthright and accepting responsibility instead of brushing it under the rug.

Personally, I loathe tutu's.  I don't understand the appeal or why women wear them in a race.  I have been scraped up by tutu's way too many times, but those who are not giving themselves enough room to go around another runner.  However, I applaud them running! :)  Period.  They deserve to be there, as much as me who is wearing a racing singlet.

SELF magazine will recover in a short time.  Their sales might hurt for a bit, but it will be fine - long term.  The buying public has a short attention span.  Just like everyone is in up and arms about the recent Vogue cover.  It will be old news, next week.

One word of advice - don't speak to the press.  Don't hand over photos, unless you get a written statement from the reporter on what they are using it for.  Don't assume it will be for a good purpose.  While the media I have dealt with is always above board, it isn't always the case in many others.  Protect yourself and your story.  

Again, this is just my professional opinion.   For the record, I would buy a tutu from her, if I wore them. Just to show my support. 

(c) C. Ragsdale 2010-13
Run F.A.B. & Boston Strong,

Charlene L. Ragsdale - Las Vegas, NV
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