Here are a few steps that Balenciaga could have introduced in their PR crisis.

Balenciaga and a PR crisis everyone might have seen coming

By Andrea Taylor

Balenciaga is no stranger to scandal and the latest campaign could have cost them everything. Here are a few tips on how their PR crisis could have been pivoted in a different direction.

Just like every organization out there, even the fashion world faces some crazy PR storms. This time the one finding itself at the center of a significant crisis is not Gucci, but none other than Balenciaga. 

For those who don’t know, Balenciaga was founded in 1919 by Cristobal Balenciaga. Ever since it was founded, the scope of such an historic fashion house has always been to create avant-garde pieces.  Think of Balenciaga as the rebel of the fashion world. The one that loves to take fashion and experiment with it. Today it is one of the biggest and most controversial fashion brands out there, and many celebrities like the Kardashians, Dua Lipa, Bella Hadid, and more love to rock their pieces.

As we all know, fashion houses have to put a new collection out every few seasons to advertise what they have been working on as well as to show what is trending. Oh, boy, did this latest Balenciaga campaign backfire.

So, to catch you up, back in November, Balenciaga launched two campaigns to showcase their new collections for children and adults. To say these photos were unsettling is an understatement.  The reason why they are unsettling is that, for parents and other adults, they depict children in a very disturbing situation [See Picture 1 below]. Furthermore, according to Danya Issawi, a fashion news writer at The Cut, the elements used in the photo shoot with Bella Hadid [See Picture 2] appear to relate to court documents regarding the “United States v. Williams,” a federal ruling against child abuse and exploitation.


Because it created such a crisis, here are a few of the steps the company decided to take to prevent the situation from worsening and tarnishing its image. Initially, according to an article from the New York Times,on Nov. 28, almost two weeks after the storm started brewing — and after a series of Instagram apologies that failed to quell it — the brand issued a statement admitting to ’a series of grievous errors for which Balenciaga takes responsibility.’”  Following this first attempt at an apology, Cedric Charbit, the CEO, decided to separately put out a statement explaining that this wasn’t the brand’s intention and that new actions would be taken to prevent such a thing from happening again. Furthermore, in a later statement, in order to redeem themselves, the brand also put out links to ways people can help prevent child exploitation. 

As a student furthering his Public Relations studies at the College of Professional Studies at Northeastern University, my biggest question is why no one appears to have raised any concerns or questions about this internally. The way the campaign was executed and handled screams of not listening or not having a foot in the real world.

As a PR professional, here are 4 things I would have done if I were asked to step in and handle their PR crisis:

1. I would monitor the situation online as soon as the campaign went live. Once negative comments started to surface, I would immediately act.  If a crisis strikes, it is essential for a crisis manager or PR specialist to act upon it IMMEDIATELY. If you wait around, the situation often will worsen, and the damage might become irreversible.

2. If things turned out negative (which they did), I would have immediately taken down the campaign and sent out a statement the SAME day.  The statement would have been in two formats–written and video.  Both would have been posted on social media and the website. For the video, I would have the CEO convey the message because it is the strongest and clearest way to let the world know the company’s position.

3. Then I would see how people react to it and if people want to publish an article or hold a conference, I would continue to apologize and make it clear the decision was taken without thinking of the consequences or how it will affect people. Also, I would list all the actions and changes the brand will be implementing moving forward.

4. Lastly, I would lay low as a brand since we are walking on thin ice. Furthermore, I would start thinking of ways the company could be coming back without making those mistakes and, most importantly, work hard to regain people’s trust.

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