As the time this post goes online, Syria’s brutal crackdown on citizen protestors continues. President Bashar al-Assad’s forces have massacred an estimated 350 people since Syrians began popular uprisings several weeks ago. Sadly, Assad’s reign of terror follows in his father’s footsteps, who ruled Syria with an iron grip and himself committed genocide against his own people, killing 10,000 of them in one episode.
Syria’s regime is notorious for torture, plotting assassinations, consorting with terrorist regimes… seriously, one gets breathless taking inventory of the Assad family’s legacy of murder and tyranny that has spanned decades.
So, as this blog comments routinely on media aesthetic, we (along with countless others) were perplexed and repulsed to see Vogue Magazine give a fawning profile of Asma al-Assad, Syria’s first lady, in its March issue. Enough has been said about this insulting and disgusting feature in Vogue, so this post isn’t about heaping more (richly deserved) scorn on the magazine’s editors. Rather, we’re here, in the interest of professionalism, to offer advice to Vogue on how it can right this epic wrong.
• Stop defending the story. Chris Knutsen, the story’s editor, stood by the story even though it ignored the Assad family’s atrocities. The first step in crisis PR is for the client to acknowledge publicly that something bad or questionable has happened. That Vogue insists on standing by its tragically timed profile flies in the face of this basic tenet of crisis management.
• Stop being absurd. Seriously, Mr. Knutsen? The editor even went so far as to not rule out doing a similar profile of North Korea’s dictator! (Thankfully, as The Atlantic points out, Kim Jong-Il is not believed to be married.)
• Apologize immediately. Smart crisis PR counsels the client’s leadership to get out in front of the issue (no pun intended) to avoid further damage. In this case, notoriously frigid Editor-in-Chief Anna Wintour can film a brief but sincerely apologetic statement on the matter and post that online; it’s only a small gesture but shows that the Vogue brand realizes how hurtful this issue was.
• Profile the heroes, not the murderers. If fashion is about new trends, what bigger trend dominates the news – and culture, society, global interaction – at the moment than the Arab Spring? Vogue could do itself a huge favor, and celebrate democracy, by profiling the brave and courageous leaders of the Middle East’s freedom movement.
Just like that, four simple tips that any fashion authority can – and should – embrace.