PR Fail? Sephora Denies Doing the Right Thing for the Right Reasons

By Melissa Hoffmann

If you are following the crisis communications playbook, you know that taking swift, deliberate and public action to right a wrong can not only mitigate a brand crisis—it can flip the narrative and attract new followers.

After a Sephora employee in California apparently racially profiled celebrity singer and songwriter SZA, who blasted the brand on social media, Sephora swiftly decided to close down all operations for an hour today so that employees can receive inclusion and diversity training. This appears to be a crisis response inspired by similar action taken by Starbucks, after two black men were arrested while doing nothing but waiting at a table for a colleague. That effort received high praise and showed communicators how powerful eating crow and taking action to do better can be.

Sephora now pushing the message that this training was a preplanned initiative that has nothing to do with the SZA incident seems a big missed opportunity for the brand.

Tadd Schwartz, president of Miami-based Schwartz Media Strategies, agrees.

“Even if the company-wide diversity training was pre-planned, Sephora should own it and use this to their advantage,” Schwartz said.

“In my opinion, Sephora is doing the right thing, so there’s no need to run away from it. They are proactively acknowledging that no corporate culture is perfect and consistent employee outreach, communication and training is a necessity. Maybe the training was, in fact, pre-scheduled, fine. But if that’s the case, then they have an opportunity to turn a negative into a positive for the brand.  Don’t walk the message back by downplaying the significance of what happened with SZA.”

Read the full story here.