Posted by David Oates 4 years, 3 months ago

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Last week, SELF released its April issue and San Diegan Monika Allen was “stunned and offended.” After giving the magazine permission to publish a photo of her and Glam Runner’s co-founder in last year's LA Marathon wearing tutu’s, she discovered they landed in the “BS Meter” section and were labeled “lame.”

Little did the prominent women’s magazine know that Allen was battling cancer and undergoing chemotherapy at the time of the marathon. In addition, they probably didn’t know that Allen’s organization makes racing tutu’s to raise funds for San Diego’s Girls on the Run. Understandably, this didn’t go over well and what started as a story released by NBC 7/39 has turned nationwide. Had the magazine known that the image really represented an inspirational woman who was battling what was the most challenging course of her life (beating cancer) rather than mocking her for running in a tutu, I highly doubt this would have been published. However, even the fact that they were making fun of someone doesn’t really sit well with a lot of people given this publication should be focused on empowering women and not bringing them down. Whether you’re a journalist or a marketing professional brainstorming an idea for your next article or campaign, it’s important to do your research first to ensure you aren’t going to offend someone.

In an email to NBC, SELF’s editor-in-chief, Lucy Danziger, said, “in our attempt to be humorous, we were inadvertently insensitive.” In addition, Danziger apologized on the magazine’s Facebook page.

From a public relations perspective, Danziger did what she needed to do for this crisis. She responded to the issue and indicated what actions they took which included apologizing to Allen, donating to her charity and offering to feature her organization in a future issue. Other than that, there’s not much more she can do. Will people cancel their subscriptions? Sure. A lot of people have already declared that they took this action. So what lessons can SELF learn from this incident? First, if your organization is attempting to do something funny, ensure you’re not being comical at the expense of others or else it will backfire. Second, do your research before publishing a photo.

While this was an unfortunate event, there was a positive that came out of it. Glam Runner has gained a lot of attention. I reached out to Allen because I was curious how the story impacted their sales, donations, website traffic and social media followers. When the first story aired, Glam Runner's Facebook page had around 1,075 fans. Now a week later, they have more than 36,600 fans. In addition, the morning after the story aired, Allen received a flood of new orders and had to remove the ordering page and direct visitors to a new fundraising page they set up and the funds go directly to Girls on the Run. Lastly, she also shared with me that Danziger not only made a donation to Girls on the Run San Diego, but also contributed to Girls on the Run International and the Santosh Kesari Laboratory at UCSD where she’s being treated.

I’m confident that SELF learned a valuable lesson from this incident and while it was unfortunate for Allen, it certainly increased awareness significantly for Glam Runner and Girls on the Run. I hope the trend of tutus at races doesn’t fade anytime soon.

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