Burger King UK and Teen Vogue Crises

Mar 10, 2021 Beth Monaghan

This week two crises made headlines. Burger King UK, as part of International Women’s Day, tweeted, “Women belong in the kitchen.” The post was meant to highlight the fact that only 20% of chefs are female and Burger King UK was awarding culinary scholarships to women. Who isn’t happy about that? Except the point got buried as Twitter erupted in outrage.

Burger King UK deleted the tweet, apologized and I forgive them. 

Speaking of intentions, there was another crisis this week. Teen Vogue has a new editor-in-chief who made Washington Post headlines, “Teen Vogue’s new editor apologizes for past racist tweets after staff complaints: ‘There’s no excuse.’” 

As Alexi McCammond assumed her new role, some of her previous tweets were unearthed, which included racist comments about Asian people. Teen Vogue issued an apology, which ended with, “We are hopeful that an internal conversation will prove fruitful in maintaining the integrity granted to us by our audience.” 

As a holding statement, this came up short in two ways. First, the action is not equivalent to the infraction. I would have used “investigation,” not “conversation.” And second, it begs more questions. Most notably, will there be an investigation? Now we’re paying closer attention.

Both the Burger King UK and the Teen Vogue crises were avoidable. We’re living in a cancel culture. Reporters have begun asking companies about their diversity metrics as a standard course of business. Blatant racism and sexism are going to make headlines, and flubs will too, especially if you’re a household name. 

Words to the wise: 
  • Spokespeople bring their baggage. And then it becomes yours.
  • Straightforward is better than funny, snarky or clever. If you’re not sure how a post will land, don’t do it. Context matters and social media’s brevity makes it hard to convey.
  • Good intentions help but don’t inoculate. And bad intentions can haunt you, especially when you post them online. 

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Topics: Social Media, crisis management, Brand Reputation, consumer brands
Beth Monaghan

Since the early days working around her kitchen table, Beth has grown Inkhouse into one of the top independent PR agencies in the country. She’s been named a Top Woman in PR by PR News, a Top 25 Innovator by PRovoke, and an Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year finalist. Beth designed Inkhouse’s signature Storytelling Workshop to mirror the literary hero’s journey and to unearth the emotional connections that bind an audience to a brand or idea. She also uses narratives to build Inkhouse’s culture, most recently through two books of employee essays, “Hindsight 2020” and “Aren’t We Lucky?”

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