Is Danielle LaPorte a racist, white supremacist who doesn’t care about her audience, but still wants all your money? Or is this just terrible branding and marketing? Let’s look at the marketing mistakes made and why LaPorte’s community felt outraged this weekend about the launch of her new program.
I’m not going to repeat what’s already been said. Others spoke beautifully, eloquently, with passion, and compassion. I’m thoroughly impressed with the way people responded with wisdom and patience, despite the pain and outrage they were feeling.
Instead, I want to talk about this from the lens of (r)Evolutionary Leadership and creating the world we want to live in and do business in. So let’s look at this as the obstacles any business could encounter and how to turn them into opportunities.
Danielle La Porte may or may not be a good person. She may or may not be racist. She may or may not be intentional/oblivious/caring/greedy/or anything else. I have no idea.
But this weekend, she let her community down and then responded to the situation terribly.
We can all learn from these mistakes. Because when we know better, we do better. And when we listen to each other, we rise together.
Danielle La Porte’s Ill-Conceived Campaign
So here’s the issue, in a nutshell:
DLP launched a program called LIGHTER and the branding featured visuals of naked bodies with dark skin, arms and legs of every color on the planet, and unfortunate lighting.
The impression it gave off was the idea that we need to strive to be lighter, i.e. whiter. It’s possible this could all be chalked up to being ridiculously unaware of how this would be perceived. So the issue isn’t so much that DLP made a mistake with what images and words she used to represent this program.
The issue was how she handled the outrage. The comments, the people, the voices, who tried to show her the way, and were ignored all weekend and then deleted.
You can’t see the original posts because they were deleted. I’m sure it was embarrassing. It’s natural to want to hide our mistakes. But public figures shouldn’t do that. WE shouldn’t do that. (Click here to see Layla Saad’s post about it on FB.)
True leadership is being able to learn from mistakes, engage in conversations that help us heal and grow, and standing up to say we hear you, we want to learn, we want to do better, and letting that learning process remain visible. Owning that it happened and saying here’s what we’re going to do about it.
Deleting the conversation is the social media equivalent of trying to silence the people who poured their heart into those comments.
Flip The Obstacles Into Opportunities
So let’s look at each of the obstacles that could’ve been turned into opportunities:
- There will be haters. Some of them are trolls you should ignore. Others will be members of your community who feel wronged. Take the time to recognize the difference. Your tribe should never be ignored or silenced. Engage with them. Listen to them. Even if you end up not agreeing with them, take the time to have a dialogue and let them know you hear them, no matter what you decide in the end.
ALWAYS listen to your people and let them know you’re listening. Even if you’re not ready to make changes or take a side or join the conversation, at least let them know you’re hearing them and you’re ready to listen!
- Have the conversation publicly. For someone who preaches “we rise together” she was quick to take that conversation away. Let others scroll through and learn. Let us see what people felt and shared so we can all learn what other human beings go through.
Social media is a PUBLIC stage and a SOCIAL environment. There were people commenting that they saw the images and didn’t realize it was anything out of the norm. Some had bought the program or were planning to buy the program. They admitted publicly that they didn’t make the connection but they’re here, in the comments, listening and learning. They admitted their own shortcomings or ignorance or obliviousness and that’s GOOD. Because that’s how we learn! That’s how we grow and connect and do better next time! The people who admitted they didn’t see it at first will be more awake and aware the next time they see something like this. And maybe THEY will be the first to speak up next time!
- Respond as quickly as possible. That’s literally the first rule in PR, especially damage control PR. Assess the situation and then respond asap. Even if you’re not ready to respond in-depth. It’s ok to say, I hear you. I’m listening. I’m processing what you’re saying. And I’m not ready to respond with any more than that yet. Or: I’m taking your opinions and feelings into consideration but I haven’t made a decision yet. But say something. Don’t let buzz and virality be the first responders.
- You can’t fake or force culture, diversity, community, authenticity, or anything else that matters. You have to earn it. And even after you’ve earned it, you have to work to maintain it. Online business (and social media) is built on relationships. With real human beings. Relationships require communication, effort, and empathy. It’s not something you set and forget.
- When you know better, you do better. DLP has an opportunity to show the world how it’s done. She can flip this obstacle into a beautiful opportunity to say, I heard you, I’m listening, I agree and I’m going to make it right. Here are the steps I going to take, thank you for taking the time to help me learn from this.
- Every interaction with your commenters/followers/fans/haters/etc. is an opportunity to reinforce your brand and your brand values. Everyone who sees how you handle a situation – both the good and the bad ones – gets to know your brand a little better. DLP reinforced her brand values with the way she handled this situation, and it doesn’t make her brand look good. Yes, she issued a public apology, but by then it wasn’t received well (especially in light of deleting the conversations).
- Your brand is what exists in the minds of all who encounter it. You don’t actually control your brand because your brand is how others PERCEIVE your business. You influence how your brand is perceived with the things you do consistently, by how you show up, by the words you use, the colors, the energy, the values.
Intentions aren’t enough when it comes to your brand. It doesn’t matter what you intended, if it’s received differently. Communication can be tricky. We have very little control over what people hear and how they interpret what we say because our words flow through many lenses and filters that were created by the listener’s experiences, beliefs, and values. So when people tell you your message is being perceived very differently than how you intended it, it matters. You’re not required to change how you communicate, but it does decide your brand and how people remember you.
Where do we go from here?
There’s one lesson everyone learned from this, even La Porte:
Intentions don’t pay the bills. Perception does.
I know this was crazy long, especially for the weekly #ObstacleIntoOpportunity post. But we could spend the rest of 2018 on this topic and still have more to talk about.
So here’s where we go from here:
Decide what kind of business and brand you want to lead.
Your business is a reflection of how you want the world to be.
How you treat your community, your contractors, your employees, and your clients is a mirror for the world you’re creating with your thoughts, actions, and energy.
CHOOSE what kind of world you want to build and use your business to build it.
We really can make the world a better place for ALL, one business at a time.
Thank you to all who are taking part in this conversion! A huge thank you to the women who spoke out and brought this issue to the light! Thank you for being at the forefront with your light and your voices! Thank you to those revolutionaries who shared this story far and wide so that I might stumble upon it too. I don’t follow DLP so it would’ve been easy for me to miss. 💜