Communication Lessons from Kyte Baby’s Fallout

Did you know Kyte Baby updated its parental leave policy? A google search didn’t even bring it up following the onslaught of bad press the company received after initially denying an employee’s request to work remotely, so she could be present for her premature baby still being cared for in the NICU. 

Much has been written about the mishap, from the HR policy that didn’t align with the company’s stated mission, to the broader issue of parental leave policies in America. However, I want to focus on the communications aspect and how with better guidance the magnitude of the fallout could have been avoided. This isn’t just about how to respond to a crisis, but the true power of knowing how to craft your messaging to authentically resonate with an audience, even when you’ve made a mistake.

 

Here are some questions companies should consider:

 

What’s the real long term solution to the problem? When a crisis hits, it’s natural to want to initiate a knee jerk response. However it’s important to take a beat, while understanding the urgency to fully assess the magnitude of the problem and viable options for a solution. You don’t want to just contribute to the noise. 

 

Who is being centered in the message and is it the right person? Marissa Hughes, the Kyte Baby employee who was initially denied the remote work request, is who needed to be centered in Kyte baby’s message. She’s the one who has endured the most harm, not the company or the onlookers. Mentioning someone’s name does not mean they’re centered in the conversation. In this case, Marissa was an accessory in the broader quest to restore the company’s image. My friend Amber Cabral explains the anatomy of a sincere apology. Harping on what the company values, while simultaneously addressing issues that counter those very ideals, only further erodes credibility. 

 

Are video and social media the right mediums to respond? Video provides a connection unlike any other medium but how you show up is a skill that doesn’t automatically come with a job title. Appearing on camera doesn’t equate to knowing how to land a message. I tell my media training clients all the time, people connect to people and not robots. 

 

Clearly, Kyte Baby CEO Ying Liu was under pressure. Her first statement was crafted, not at all in her voice, that she read while clearly very nervous. As she later acknowledged, it completely missed the mark. In the second attempt, now off script and under exponentially more pressure after receiving an avalanche of criticism, Liu took a lot more responsibility. But now she was apologizing for two things, botching the first message and the original issue regarding the remote work request. Liu’s second message lacked focus, confidence and didn’t outline a more comprehensive solution to the problem. The pressure won and the damage was done in a matter of 5 minutes and 30 seconds. 

 

According to Axios, prior to the controversy, “ the brand averaged two earned media articles per week. Coverage has increased roughly 33,000%, according to MuckRack data, with 659 news articles written in…seven days.” At this time both videos have been viewed more than 9 million times combined on TikTok alone.

 

We have to get brutally honest. If you can’t deliver a message effectively through video during a crisis, opt for a written statement instead. The stakes are too high.

 

We are now at a time when corporate executives must be able to address different stakeholders, not just with facts and figures but the fullness of their humanity. Media training was once all about how to master the art of a press interview. Now it’s more about how to more clearly break through the noise and land your message on multiple platforms. 

 

At Mountain Court Media we stress that it’s not about becoming someone else, but elevating how you show up to center the audience you are serving. You can share the same exact information but change how you deliver it to meet the audience where they are. Through our customized media training program, Mountain Court Media helps executives craft their message and land it with ease. 

 

Reach out to us at hello@mountaincourtmedia.com to learn more about our media training program!

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