Throughout 2017 alone we have seen multiple massive public relations crises. From Pepsi’s terrible approach to diversity and protest to an airline physically assaulting one of their customers. One crisis that is a little less known comes from the lifestyle magazine known as Cosmopolitan. Although it is not as publicized, it is still a crisis nonetheless and makes you wonder if someone lost their job.
On April 11th, 2017 the well-known lifestyle magazine sent out a tweet from their Twitter account that stated “How This Woman Lost 44 Pounds Without *ANY* Exercise” followed by a link to their website featuring the article. Now, initially this may draw readers, like myself, who either don’t have the time or motivation to workout. All was well until people began clicking on the link and reading the article. Readers quickly found out that this woman had cancer. It wasn’t the cancer that caused Simone Harbinson to lose 44 pounds; it is actually close to the opposite. Multiple surgeries and months of hardly being able to move took a toll on Simone. To make a long story short, this woman endured a painful crucible that resulted in her finding comfort in eating. Since she was still unable to workout Simone found a dietary program known as The Bod that she followed to lose 44 pounds.
Let’s look at the problem here. Cosmopolitan mislead their audience into thinking that a woman lost 44 pounds because she had cancer. Although the article states otherwise, people are quick to jump to conclusions and form opinions. The headline gives off the impression that Cosmopolitan is romanticizing cancer. The tweet that was posted featured a different headline than the one that was on the actual article posted on Cosmopolitan’s website. The article itself was titled “A Serious Health Scare Helped Me Love My Body More Than Ever”. Multiple other publications covered the crisis that Cosmopolitan was going through, with Huffington Post saying that headlines are meant to entice readers “but this Cosmopolitan one took that premise a little too far” (Amatulli, 2017), and noted that the magazine did not respond to their critics. They did not attack their accusers. They did not make an excuse or deny that there was a problem. They did not try to justify the tweet, offer their audiences some reimbursement for the trouble, or outright apologize. What Cosmopolitan did do, however, was take corrective action.
The text book states on page 176 that corrective action is when “the organization takes steps to repair the damage from the crisis and to prevent it from happening again” (Wilcox, Cameron, Reber, & Shin, 2013). The magazine did take corrective action, though, did not offer any guarantee that such a thing will not happen again. What Cosmopolitan did do was delete the problematic tweet. The article is still featured on their website and states at the bottom that “this article has been updated since publication”. The Washington post, in their article about the incident, states that “it’s unclear whether the headline was changed” (Andrews, 2017).
In my opinion, I believe that Cosmopolitan could have benefited from taking more action than just deleting their tweet. Their imagine and reputation may have taken less damaged if they followed the OAF model that can be used in certain crises. Own it, Apologize, and Fix it. All they did was fix it. Had they addressed that their tweet was insensitive, apathetic, and misleading and that they have or will be taking internal corrective action readers would know that they sincerely apologized instead of just deleting the tweet because of the recoil. Cosmopolitan was right to have taken the tweet down, but could have done more.
Andrews, T. M. (2017, April 12). Dear Cosmopolitan magazine: ‘Cancer is not a diet plan’. Retrieved October 04, 2017, from https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2017/04/12/dear-cosmopolitan-magazine-cancer-is-not-a-diet-plan/?utm_term=.aabdd8b58d9b
Amatulli, J. (2017, April 11). Cosmo’s Headline About Cancer Survivor’s Weight Loss Is A Doozy. Retrieved October 04, 2017, from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/cosmos-headline-about-cancer-survivors-weight-loss-is-a-doozy_us_58eced9ae4b0df7e204585a0
Wilcox, D. L., Cameron, G. T., Reber, B. H., & Shin, J. (2013). Think Public Relations (2nd ed.). Boston: Pearson.