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39 Little Words

April 2014

When SELF magazine published this cute photo of marathon runners in tutus, they had no idea who they were messing with…

39 words later, SELF is buried under a deluge of negative publicity, in spite of two apologies.

39 WORDS, SELF Magazine, April 2014 Positioned with the photo in the "Lame" column of the “BS Meter” department. Photo by Derek Burke/Courtesty Glam Runners “A racing tutu epidemic has struck NYC's Central Park, and it's all because people think these froufrou skirts make you run faster. Now, if you told us they made people run from you faster, maybe we would believe it.”

39 WORDS, SELF Magazine, April 2014
Positioned with the photo in the “Lame” column of the “BS Meter” department. Photo by Derek Burke
“A racing tutu epidemic has struck NYC’s Central Park, and it’s all because people think these froufrou skirts make you run faster. Now, if you told us they made people run from you faster, maybe we would believe it.”

SELF Magazine recently asked permission to use a cute photo of two San Diego women marathon runners in their April issue. The women, Monika Allen and Taramae Baize, were shocked to see the photo in the “BS Meter” describing a froufrou tutu epidemic in running races and made fun of people who wear them. In just 39 words SELF began a spiral into publicity hell. They had no idea who they were messing with.

Monika posted the SELF depiction on Facebook and her disappointment at being duped by a request from SELF to use the photo. It was picked up by the local San Diego NBC affiliate on March 26 and that was all it took to begin what will be remembered as the wrath of a woman scorned. SELF has brought down the wrath of its core audience, women, and the wrath of runners nationally and internationally.

The photo shows a finish line shot of Monika, dressed as Wonder Woman, and Taramae, dressed as Super Woman. So, they make and sell tutus through their company, Glam Runner, which then donates proceeds to Girls on the Run, a San Diego charity that sponsors exercise and confidence-building programs for young girls. Oops…they didn’t see that one coming.

Oh, and Monika was running while in the middle of chemotherapy for brain cancer. Double Oops…now they have really stepped in it.

Comments on NBC 7 San Diego’s Facebook page illustrate that SELF has lost a lot of readers for this bullying blunder, with nearly 3,000 posts in the first 24 hours. The Glam Runner Facebook page had less than 1,000 likes before the snafu, and as of today they have over 36,000 with lots of photos of tutu-wearing runners who post support from all over the country. The apology from SELF, which focused on Monika’s cancer, was considered insincere based on postings that condemn SELF for putting down women for any reason. Oops. So the editor made a second apology, including an announcement that they are discontinuing the BS Meter. Readers are not buying it and are still lashing out online 7 days later.

A quick Google search includes postings from most every major city, tons of online news services and over 16 pages of relevant matches, including the Huffington Post, New York Daily News, AOL.com, USA Today and the Daily Mail in England. Monika appeared on the Katie Couric show on Tuesday. Many postings from women say they will drop their subscription to SELF; some call for someone to resign.

So, 39 little words – probably written by an intern – and SELF is facing a serious attack on their reputation and their livelihood – paid subscribers and readers who trust them. You just can’t plan for something like this; you never know when a crisis will occur in your business.

What would your response be to an unplanned crisis? Attend The Crisis Cliff on May 8.

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