Weighing in on Marie Claire’s PR Disaster

“Kiss my fat rolls.”

That was just one of more than 3,600 responses to a Marie Claire blogger’s post called, “Should ‘Fatties’ Get a Room? (Even on TV?).” The post, in which blogger Maura Kelly addresses her disgust for overweight couples on television shows like the CBS sitcom “Mike & Molly,” has been the root of Marie Claire’s latest public relations disaster.

In the post, Kelly writes:

“So anyway, yes, I think I’d be grossed out if I had to watch two characters with rolls and rolls of fat kissing each other…because I’d be grossed out if I had to watch them doing anything. To be brutally honest, even in real life, I find it aesthetically displeasing to watch a very, very fat person simply walk across the room – just like I’d find it distressing if I saw a very drunk person stumbling across a bar or a heroine addict slumping in a chair . . . What do you guys think? Fat people making out on TV – are you cool with it? Do you think I’m being an insensitive jerk?”

Based on the the impassioned responses to the post, the overwhelming consensus is, yes, Maura Kelly is being an insensitive jerk. However, Maura Kelly is not the only one under fire for the blog; Marie Claire is, too.

In an attempt to smooth things over, Kelly updated her blog post with a personal apology to Marie Claire readers:

“I would really like to apologize for the insensitive things I’ve said in this post. Believe it or not, I never wanted anyone to feel bullied or ashamed after reading this, and I sorely regret that it upset people so much . . . People have accused me of being a bully in my post. I never intended to be that — it’s actually the very last thing I want to be, as a writer or a person. But I know that I came off that way, and I really cannot apologize enough to the people whom I upset,” she wrote.

It’s obvious Maura Kelly’s apology will never completely smooth things over. However, it’s important to note she took a step away from her hostile comments to try to amend her relationship with Marie Claire readers.

Editors and other leaders within Marie Claire’s ranks, however, neglected to try to preserve the relationship they share with readers. Instead of issuing a formal apology, Marie Claire editor Joanna Coles responded by saying Kelly is “a very provocative blogger” and “she was an anorexic herself and this is a subject she feels very strongly about.” Instead of reprimanding Maura Kelly, Marie Claire chose to stand by her side in support.

Marie Claire took the hands-off approach to the issue because the article was published on a blog and not in the magazine. What Marie Claire failed to recognize is the blog remains hosted on its website and the public affiliates the blog and Maura Kelly with the magazine itself. The connection seems strong enough that the blog post may as well have been published in an issue of Marie Claire.

In addition, allowing Kelly to post the blog further damages Marie Claire’s reputation because, instead of applauding individuals of all shapes and sizes, the blog openly criticizes the obese. Granted, obesity is one of America’s greatest health issues; but, the manner in which Kelly brought up the problem was highly offensive. The post secured Marie Claire’s position as yet another women’s magazine perpetuating the ideal (and unreachable) standard of “beauty” that causes such low self-esteem in women and girls.

Marie Claire’s choice not to address the blog fueled the public’s uproar and affected Marie Claire’s reputation negatively. Many people say they will never purchase issues of Marie Claire magazine again and Marie Claire lost their support. Others canceled their subscriptions. Some even decided to hold a “Kiss-In” protest at the Hearst Building in Manhattan.

By simply acknowledging the harm done by Maura Kelly’s post and issuing a formal apology, Marie Claire could have salvaged its reputation. But that apology will never come, although readers are still waiting.

How do you think Marie Claire should have reacted? Do you think its reputation has been harmed?

By Desiree Mahr

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5 Comments

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5 responses to “Weighing in on Marie Claire’s PR Disaster

  1. Pingback: Weighing in on Marie Claire’s PR Disaster | Desiree Writes

  2. I most certainly think Marie Clair’s reputation is tainted and they have lost my respect. What a terrible, terrible thing to say. If she truly has anorexia, she should be more sensitive to people’s struggle with their relationships to food, body image etc. The magazine’s PR response should have been much stronger and saying she is “provocative” is an understatement to the fact that she is just downright OFFENSIVE!

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  4. When are brands going to learn that anyone or thing they associate with impacts their reputation in a positive or negative way?

    Why not use this as an opportunity to educate readers about the dangers of obesity and offer them ways to help. This is an important reputation lesson in the online space and hopefully Marie Claire is still listening.

  5. Pingback: #Fail: 10 Online Reputation Management Mistakes from 2010 | Internet Marketing Denver | ReachLocal Denver | Social Media Denver

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