Elle Magazine Enters The PR Storm Around Body Image

In every school there are the cool and popular kids, and then there are the not-so-cool kids. Candidly, we go after the cool kids. We go after the attractive all-American kid with a great attitude and a lot of friends. A lot of people don’t belong [in our clothes], and they can’t belong. Are we exclusionary? Absolutely. Those companies that are in trouble are trying to target everybody: young, old, fat, skinny.
Mike Jeffries, Abercrombie & Fitch

Frankly some women’s bodies just don’t actually work for it.
Chip Wilson, Lululemon on it’s Yoga pants problem.

The latest high profile entry into the body image PR storm that seems to be this year’s theme is from Elle Magazine.

Either Elle, deliberately went for the any-publicity-is-good-publicity approach (something that destroys brand credibility) or severely miscalculated the common sense of the social world.

After failing to realize how disconnected the fashion industry is from what mainstream considers plus-sized, Elle went for the only-if-you-had-read-the-article approach.

Then the message went for a different approach.

Read why model Leah Kelley is proud to call herself “plus-size”.

Ummh, we didn’t call her plus-sized, she calls herself plus-sized. That’s what she said.

Okay, whatever …

The Twitterverse is brewing with tweets about how wrong the whole message is.

The Twitterverse read the article and for the most part, didn’t walk away with a positive feeling.

Diversity of size is a great message, but Elle didn’t deliver that. A model that is okay with being labeled plus-sized (but is not plus-sized by mainstream standards) may not be the ideal spokesperson for an industry term that needs redefining – unless of course this was a well calculated endeavor to set a fire to the conversation. I doubt the latter though based on the tweets coming from Elle. There’s nothing wrong with the word in my opinion, but how it’s used and marginalized is what causes a problem.

The whole affair though is a social media blunder that could have been avoided with some foresight. Knowing the audience should have prevented the tweet from Elle that sparked the controversy or at least resulted in a crafted message with greater conversational appeal.

It didn’t take long for the social world to react to Elle’s tweeted article.

The Lesson

Anyone can make a blunder on social media. Knowing how to handle the after-effects is a skill though that takes some practice and humility.

In my opinion, a proper and positive course of direction could have been achieved if Elle simply apologized for any misunderstandings and then provided a clear statement on why the brand disagrees with the industry definition of plus-size. Perhaps promising a follow-up article that would explore body image within the fashion industry in depth and taking a firm stand on the need for change would have benefited Elle’s brand more than the defensive stance it took.

The conversation can still take a positive direction, but that ball is in Elle’s court.

For now, Elle’s not too subtle approach, joins the ranks of other criticized brands, such as Abercrombie & Fitch or Lululemon, in reaping the consequences of being on the wrong side of the body image conversation. Elle, probably could undo the brand hit without too much effort though. The social world can be forgiving when the appropriate approach is taken.

Taking the that’s what she said approach doesn’t cut it though. Just grab the conversation by the horns and take the firm right stand most want to see, Elle.

For everyone else, know your audience and mainstream opinions when you tweet.

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