Bioré and a social media influencer are in hot water after a paid social media campaign promoting its products came across as minimizing gun violence around the country, The New York Times reported.
As the Times explains:
An influencer and graduate of Michigan State University, Cecilee Max-Brown, posted a TikTok sponsored by Bioré in which she talked about how a shooting on campus in February affected her mental health along with stressors like her post-college career, narrating over videos that show her alternating between exercising, resting and using skin care products.
The MSU shooting involved a lone shooter who killed three students and wounded five others. The tragedy caused Max-Brown to have anxiety and feel “terror” while on campus, according to the article.
The New York Times article said that a spokesperson noted that Max-Brown’s video was part of a bigger mental health awareness campaign. Also, no one told her to say anything in particular, but to “give her personal, authentic and unfiltered story,” per the article.
The video was pulled down last Friday – not even 24 hours after being posted – when social media commenters said the clip was “insensitive” because the positive, “upbeat” vibe of the video was tone deaf to the heavy school shooting topic.
In an apology on Instagram, Bioré owned up to the issue and asked viewers to not direct their anger toward creators.
“We let our creators down by not providing better guidance,” Bioré posted.
View this post on Instagram
“For the past 4 years we have supported mental health alliances, working with social media influencers who experience anxiety, depression, and other mental health conditions to amplify their authentic, unscripted stories in an effort to help reduce the stigma that surrounds mental health.”
Bioré added that its consumers let them know that mental health is a top priority and the company wants to continue to offer “meaningful support” in that capacity.
“This time, however, we did it the wrong way. We lacked sensitivity around an incredibly serious tragedy, and our tonality was completely inappropriate. We are sorry.”
Why it matters: Authenticity is key when working with influencers and followers can tell when they’re faking it– especially with brand deals.
Yet in this case, was Max-Brown too real? School shootings are, tragically, a part of daily life in America, and certainly one that affects mental health. Could the video have been salvaged with a different tone, music choices or other alterations? Or was a video for a beauty product that tried to incorporate such a weighty topic always going to ring false?
While this scenario is a PR nightmare for brands working with influencers, it’s an ever-present reminder that these influencers need guidance and oversight.
Sequan Henries commented on Instagram that, “Apology statements aren’t being taken seriously. In this ‘cancel culture’ you HAVE to forsee possible negative outcomes before they happen.”
Though a brand doesn’t want to come across as stifling or overbearing to an influencer, ensuring the company is properly represented matters, too. Striking the right balance between influencer training and expectations can avoid disasters like this.
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Sherri Kolade is a writer at Ragan Communications. When she is not with her family, she enjoys watching Alfred Hitchcock-style films, reading and building an authentically curated life that includes more than occasionally finding something deliciously fried. Follow her on LinkedIn. Have a great PR story idea? Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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