You are not wrong to want to get all the facts. You are not wrong to be measured in your response. Unfortunately, when it comes to crisis communication best practices, you are wrong in staying silent for too long and in appearing defensive in your first communication.
A better play would have been to come out strongly about getting to the truth. Something along the lines: “I’m going to find out what happened, and I’m going to make it right.” It’s non-committal, yet reflects leadership, resolve and empathy.
Instead, your response felt defensive: “I haven’t made any comments because I am waiting on facts…Why am I being demonized, denounced and thrown on the cover of a newspaper for not speaking immediately?”
Well, the reason is because your fans and supporters wanted to hear from you – immediately. They wanted to know that you – a staunch defender of civil rights – cared. They wanted to know that you, of all people, would react should the ugly allegations be true.
I’m not saying you should end your relationship with Barney’s. The fact that a portion of sales supports scholarships is more than a good enough reason to stay the course. But you should have taken the lead – publicly – about denouncing such behavior and working with Barney’s, the police and any other authorities to end this bigotry. Your tardy response put Barney’s in the leadership role. That’s unfortunate for your personal brand.
That’s my opinion. What’s yours?