Lush : a Crisis Management Perspective

If you read the PR pundits this week, you could be forgiven for thinking that Lush is facing a comms crisis of epic proportions. People are sharing the videos Lush has created with ‘disaster in the making’ comments. And for many brands, this would be truly uncomfortable.

Lush: "Spied on for Taking a Stand" poster
Lush poster

Lush on a back foot? 

Lush may appear to some to be on the back foot and PR folk across the country are knowingly tutting at their foolishness.

However, its campaign is creating change, raising an important issue.

Lush is a brand that demands change. This campaign is bang on brand: many of their own workers are activists.

How the whole thing will pan out remains to be seen, and sentiment analysis online will be confused and confusing because in amongst the negative comments about Lush comms are negative comments about the police and police response.

This is a far braver campaign than most would have an appetite for. Go after the authorities and they’ll go after you, and ‘off duty’ police officers have been persuading store managers to take down their window displays. This for me now presents an interesting ‘crisis point’ – what will Lush do with the store managers who have buckled?

A comment on Policing?

I would be far more concerned about the police reputation – they, to me, are the ones who are mishandling their communications and creating a ‘crisis’  by missing a trick.

I recently dated someone who was not what he purported to be. When I found out the truth I wanted to rip my skin off. Yet it was nothing compared to those women (and men) who’ve been far more duped by police officers who are supposed to be there to uphold their rights to campaign for a better society – one without young black men being stabbed, without guns, with better environmental protections, with better animal husbandry. 

The police are there to protect all of us, not just a select few.

And even if I didn’t agree with the sentiments of the campaign, we have watched policing of far right demonstrations this week. The police are there to uphold a right, not make political judgements. Some of their communicators seem to be forgetting that this is a peaceful protest, well within democratic rights. It’s not an attack on the Police, it’s an attack on a part of policing that has gone horribly wrong.

On the #SpyCops issue, the police have been found, in court, to have overstepped the mark. Not the front line police officers, who fulfil an important role and, for the most part, do it well. But the police using duplicity to get into people’s homes. The people who spied on Stephen Lawrence’s parents. These are not beat bobbies. They are people who were badly deployed by their senior officers.

MPs are pressing for the current public inquiry into undercover policing: without full disclosure regarding what’s happened: that the police have lost trust has little to do with Lush.

But rather than shirt-tail and use the Lush campaign as a way to show how much they are doing to clean up their act, the Police are entering into Twitter spats and ‘having polite chats’ with branch managers, persuading them to take the displays down. As someone with police officers in my own family, I feel the rank and file police officers are being hugely let down. The few who are behaving like this are letting down the rank and file, and creating a wider ‘us and them’ divide.

The Police Federation has called the Lush campaign “poorly judged”, rather than taking the high ground and embracing the forthcoming enquiry as an opportunity to exonerate its members (although, frankly, those responsible will have retired by the time the enquiry’s findings are published).

Weaknesses?

If there’s a weakness in the Lush campaign from a PR perspective, it’s that they don’t seem to have rallied their staff behind the campaign ENOUGH.  I expected to find shareable YouTube videos, images and fact sheets to support the media and bloggers. I’d want to hear them seizing the opportunity for a mainstream media debate. It’s not too late. They have the nettle in their hands – they should both grasp it and convert us all to nettle soup.

Perhaps they weren’t ready for the response – other campaigns have not generated the same furore. But that’s supposition on my part.

When the awards on successful communications campaigns are handed out, if column inches, effecting change and SEO are the metrics, this campaign deserves a podium place. We’ll have to see how it pans out for sales, with so many people saying they’ll no longer buy there. But this week, although I make my own bath bombs rather than pay a silly price for them, I’ll not be alone, I’m sure, in getting out to buy some. It will be interesting to watch.

Despite much lip service to ethics, we don’t seem quite ready as an industry to embrace ‘issues’ as anything other than cute, cuddly and remote– yet.

Blog created October 2018, reblogged January 2020

Published by Claire (claireatwaves)

Founder, Waves PR To be found as claireatwaves in most social spaces. Helping people's reputations, online and off. Passionate advocate against adult grooming and groomers at CAAGe.org.

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