Abercrombie, ‘Jersey Shore’ example shows us value of public relations

August 22, 2011
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It was the press release heard ‘round the world. Abercrombie & Fitch, a youth-oriented clothing brand, announced to the media that it had offered Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino and other MTV’s “Jersey Shore” cast members a “substantial payment” to not wear its clothes.

“We are deeply concerned that Mr. Sorrentino’s association with our brand could cause significant damage to our image. We understand that the show is for entertainment purposes, but believe this association is contrary to the aspirational nature of our brand, and may be distressing to many of our fans,” an Abercrombie & Fitch representative said in the statement. “We have also extended this offer to other members of the cast, and are urgently waiting a response.”

The media went wild and soon the cast members took to sites like Facebook and Twitter to express their disappointment in Abercrombie for calling them in such a public way.

Many began to wonder, though, if Abercrombie really cared whether the cast was wearing its graphic tees and sweatpants, or if it was just a well-placed publicity stunt.

MTV’s response to Abercrombie was swift and witty: “It’s a clever PR stunt, and we’d love to work with them on other ways they can leverage ‘Jersey Shore’ to reach the largest youth audience on television,” an MTV spokesperson said in a statement, as reported in Adweek. “If the ‘Jersey Shore’ cast should stop wearing the brand, does that mean those same fans — the ones who love nothing more than to curl up in their A&F sweats every Thursday night to watch their favorite show — should stop wearing it as well?”

The dust has settled a bit on “the situation,” but I bring it up in order to highlight the impact that an effective public relations campaign can have on your business. I haven’t seen any analytics on Abercrombie’s ROI on its “Jersey Shore” hooplah, but I can tell you that I couldn’t turn on the TV or surf Twitter without seeing every other person talking about Abercrombie-gate.

This retailer plucked a nugget of pop culture — “Jersey Shore” saw record ratings for MTV in its most recent season debut — and tied it in to a campaign that helped draw attention to its brand and product.

While this is quite a splashy example, what it teaches us as business owners is that we should always be looking for opportunities to position ourselves as thought leaders and correlate something that’s happening in the news with our product or service. If you provide disaster insurance, perhaps Saturday’s storm is a good reason to send out a press release with tips about staying safe in a severe storm. If you’re a fitness expert and there’s a big 5K coming up, send out a press release about ways that runners can best prepare themselves for the race.

By thinking outside of the box a bit, you can highlight what you do best and perhaps even garner some new business as a result.

This post is brought to you by the good folks at Dale Carnegie Training of Central Indiana, providers of professional development and management development courses and information in Indiana. We would love to connect with you on Facebook.

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