Zendaya, Modeliste, and a Lesson in Reputation Management

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    A public call-out and quick resolution

    Nineteen year-old entertainer Zendaya has a reputation as being an outspoken champion of positive body image, and she lived up to it when she realized that L.A. fashion magazine Modeliste had done significant digital plastic surgery on images of her used in the publication. Showing off the power a simple message holds when it comes from someone with a rabid following, the singer/actress/model shared from her @Zendaya Instagram account:

    Had a new shoot come out today and was shocked when I found my 19 year old hips and torso quite manipulated. These are the things that make women self conscious, that create the unrealistic ideals of beauty that we have. Anyone who knows who I am knows I stand for honest and pure self love. So I took it upon myself to release the real pic (right side) and I love it??

    This of course put Modeliste under the microscope, and the magazine’s editors did some smart reputation management of their own, releasing the following statement via the same platform their issue was brewing on:

    As Modeliste Magazine’s Editor-in-Chief, I would like to send a message to all of @zendaya beautiful, shining and loyal fans: We hear you and thank you for your outpouring support of the issue and this talented and inspiring young woman that we are all blessed to have as a role model and who will continue to inspire us through her artistic talents, intellect, creativity and honesty.

    I am compelled to publicly address this situation which was brought to my attention yesterday, personally by Zendaya, prior to the issue’s anticipated premiere. Upon review of the final edited images which had been submitted to us by an independent editing company, together as a collaborative between myself, Zendaya and her parents, we concluded that the images had been retouched to an extent that was not acceptable and not true to the values and ideals we represent and promote in our publication I, therefore, made the executive decision to immediately pull the issue in order to have this rectified and have the images restored to their original, natural state which will reflect the true beauty and radiance of Zendaya. We look forward to sharing these shortly upon the issue’s re-release.

    Although this was fairly well done, placing responsibility on the editing company felt like a bit of a cop-out, and overall left the statement less effective than it could have been. It begs readers to ask, “Are they dumping blame or is an outside organization really left 100% responsible for decisions that can drastically affect the organization as a whole?” Neither one is a positive conclusion, and frankly leading your stakeholders to decide whether you’re incompetent or lying is a dangerous situation to be in.

    In the end major controversy was avoided by all parties. Zendaya further cemented her already strong brand by sticking to her guns, and Modeliste was able to get back to “business as usual” after a brief hiccup. With how fast your average person is to leap into outrage mode, near-misses are a common occurrence today, making constant monitoring of sentiment both on and off-line and the ability to immediately leap into action a must to protect your reputation against the constantly growing number of reputation threats that do exist out there.

    For more resources, see the Free Management Library topic: Crisis Management

    [Jonathan Bernstein is president of Bernstein Crisis Management, Inc., an international crisis management consultancy, author of Manager’s Guide to Crisis Management and Keeping the Wolves at Bay – Media Training. Erik Bernstein is vice president for the firm, and also editor of its newsletter, Crisis Manager]

    – See more at: https://management.org/blogs/crisis-management/2015/10/25/is-the-us-china-cyber-espionage-agreement-making-a-difference/#sthash.JhWGuYNX.dpuf