Business In Society
Facebook Twitter LinkedIn

Business in Society Blog

When “whoops!” must be offset: Be quick, authoritative and personal about it

Corporate crisis management, a virtual cottage industry within the public relations profession, got an important new case history this week.

With a public tempest swirling around the company because of an earlier statement supportive of Trump administration policies, Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank went public with a personal clarification.

Mr.Plank penned an open letter to the Under Amour home city, Baltimore — and, no doubt, to all of the company’s audiences everywhere — that appeared as a full-page ad in The Baltimore Sun.  The message, his first personal public response, appeared three working days after the second corporate statement addressing the issue.

The original comment, in an interview, had caused a social media backlash among consumers, some vowing to boycott the company’s sports apparel. And three of the brand’s top athlete endorsers expressed opposition to the content. 

Interestingly, Mr. Plank did not offer an explicit apology — sometimes deemed necessary in such crises. He did walk back his original quote and then moved on to explain his, and the company’s, policies on the critics’ key issue – the proposed suspension of refugee admissions and temporary barring of travelers from seven mostly Muslim countries:

“In a business television interview last week, I answered a question with a choice of words that did not accurately reflect my intent. I want to clarify for our hometown exactly the values for which Under Armour and I stand …

“I personally believe that immigration is the foundation of our country’s exceptionalism …We are always mindful of the responsibility that we have to those who choose our brand, especially the young people who represent the bold and bright future of a diverse and inclusive America … In a time of division, we aspire to be a force of unity, growth and optimism for our city and our country.”

He said the brand will take public positions on legislation to support its workforce “whenever policy conflicts with human rights.”