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Hooters Takes a Stand Against Sexual Harassment


In the same two-week span that the greatest headline writer in the U.S. was laid off at the New York Post, many of us were grabbed by a headline out of San Diego .

The restaurant that was somewhat named after an owl and known for scantily clad servers is taking a stand against objectifying women in perhaps one of the most brilliant yet ironic PR moves of late.

You may have heard that San Diego Mayor Bob Filner (D) has recently been accused by scores of women for sexually harassing them in the workplace, at church, and just about everywhere else. He’s been disgraced not just in San Diego but nationwide.

Filner has utilized the tried and true defense of, “I need help and am going to rehab.” But instead of resigning his post, he plans to run the city from a rehabilitation center, continuing to draw a paycheck to the dismay of many.

Fellow Democratic Party member and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel once said, “You never let a serious crisis go to waste.” And of all brands, the legendary Hooters restaurant chain took his advice.

The company is turning claims of objectification and chauvinism against their business on its head, publically banning Mayor Filner from their establishments on the basis they believe women should be treated with respect.

While this is a wise stance for any company to take, the beauty of the play is that Hooters is receiving a strong reputation bump for combatting one of the biggest complaints against their own business, regardless of the chain’s sub-par food.

Sure, there are going to be trolls, upset a business built on busty servers is pointing a finger at Filthy Filner. But that doesn’t matter. Those people would never have enjoyed Hooters’ wings and lively atmosphere anyway. They are gaining meaningful impressions for taking a stand for a just cause.

Clearly not every situation is right for a company to take a public stance. When one comes along, you need take a serious look at how you can insert your brand into the developing storyline in a positive manner.

How do you know what issues might work for your brand? Here’s how:

Q: Is it relevant to the brand?

A: It wouldn’t make much sense for Outback Steakhouse to ban Mayor Filner. While it would be a nice gesture, it isn’t a great fit. At this point, anyone that takes a stand against Filner will get good press, but not every situation is that generous. The fact that Hooters is such an ironically great fit is why they are getting this much positive attention.

Q: Are the people who will be upset within our target demographic?

A: If the answer is no, that is a great sign. If the answer is yes, you should stop yourself right there.

Q: Some people, probably without a sense of humor, will get angry. Know this. The question is, will those upset individuals or groups appear logical or unreasonable with their argument against you?

A: Elasticity founders Dan Callahan and Aaron Perlut taught me one of the best lessons I have ever learned – If you want to win a public debate, you must appear as the most reasonable person in the argument. If you believe the naysayers will come off as unreasonable, you’re good to go.

Q: “The enemy of my enemy is my friend.” Can you get a credible organization to back your play?

A: If you can find a legitimate partnership, it legitimizes your effort. An opponent’s ability to question your stance as authentic and appropriate evaporates if you have an ally with a history of fighting for the cause. Hooters hasn’t done this yet, but they should surely try.

Q: How much press will the statement/stance actually generate?

A: This is a hard question to answer as you really never know for sure. Take a guess and see if that reward justifies the risk.
The moral of the story? Don’t be afraid of the trolls. If your brand takes a stance against injustice, customers will respect you for it and the media will write about you because of it.

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