Contribution to Book
Oxford University Press
Cases in Public Relations : Translating Ethics into Action
In February 2016, the clothing retailer Lands’ End found itself at the center of a public relations crisis linked to its decision to feature an interview with women’s rights activist Gloria Steinem on the company’s website and in its catalog. As part of a new “Legends Series” of interviews, the profile described Steinem as “The woman who paved the way.” Although the piece didn’t directly reference Steinem’s support for abortion rights, many customers took to social media to express anger at Lands’ End for choosing to feature Steinem. Facebook and Twitter posts accused Lands’ End of glorifying “a pro-abortion feminist” and ignoring the views of its “family friendly” customer base. Along with boycott calls from consumers, several Christian and Catholic schools threatened to end school uniform contracts with Lands’ End due to the “pro-abortion agenda” touted in the company’s catalog. Lands’ End quickly removed the interview from its website, and issued an apology explaining the profile series was meant to honor pioneering individuals and that the company had not intended “to take any political or religious stance.” Instead of ending the controversy, however, Lands’ End quickly found it had newly angered many consumers on the opposite end of the political spectrum. Social media backlash and calls to boycott came from those who supported Steinem and her politics. Along with analysis of the Lands’ End case, the chapter discusses relevant academic literature and highlights other recent cases in which companies, intentionally and unintentionally, have become ensnared in highly charged political debates.
Gilkerson, Nathan, "The Lands’ End Content Marketing Debacle: A Cautionary Tale of a Retailer’s Inadvertent Foray into Polarized Politics" (2018). College of Communication Faculty Research and Publications. 530.
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