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Good and Bad PR: A giant leap for SpaceX and a giant misstep from L’Oreal

Good PR

After bad weather initially delayed blast-off, SpaceX has now successfully launched its first crew into orbit, all from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida; meaning a new era of space travel is upon us. Billionaire owner Elon Musk, the man also behind Tesla, had much to celebrate after the successful launch of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket, on top of which sat a brand-new automated capsule spacecraft called the Crew Dragon. Inside, veteran NASA flyers Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken lifted off and were dropped into orbit 12 minutes later.

It has been almost 10 years since astronauts have launched into orbit from US soil, and SpaceX now holds the accolade of being the first company to send passengers into orbit in a privately made vehicle. What a huge achievement! After orbiting inside the Crew Dragon for around a day, the duo managed to successfully dock with their target, the International Space Station (ISS), on Sunday.

Since the NASA Space Shuttle’s last flight in 2011, the US has had to rely on Russia’s Soyuz rocket to send its astronauts to the ISS, at a cost of around $80 million per seat! Wowzers!

So you see, this is a big step forward for NASA, the US and SpaceX, who may be able to trade with Russia for seats on one another’s flights from here on out; although it’s worth pointing out that this latest SpaceX launch has been intended as a test. The success of it (with the partially reusable Falcon 9 rocket landing safely back here on earth) opens up plenty of doors for space exploration in the future.

History has once again been made and the media coverage and kudos for SpaceX was vast.

Bad PR

On 25 May, a 46-year-old black man named George Floyd was killed by a white police officer named Derek Chauvin in Minneapolis in the United States. He had been arrested for allegedly using a fake $20 in a shop and, despite not resisting arrest, Derek Chauvin pinned him face down on the ground and knelt on his neck for 8 minutes. Despite George saying he could not breathe, video footage of the incident showed that Chauvin did not listen and George was later taken by ambulance to the hospital where he died.

This has sparked protests and outrage across the US and beyond with the Black Lives Matter movement building momentum by the day and important conversations around white privilege starting up. Many brands have taken steps to acknowledge the tragedy and the fallout of George’s death, in the form of social media posts, passionate and heartfelt emails and similar; however, L’Oreal’s efforts backfired.

The brand uploaded an Instagram post with white writing on a black background that simply read ‘speaking out is worth it’ and its logo beneath; playing on the brand’s well-known slogan. Some felt the attempt to make their positioning somewhat on-brand was a bit in poor taste and didn’t sit right; however, the biggest issue came to light later on.

Model and transgender activist Munroe Bergdorf took to Twitter to express her anger towards L’Oreal. She was hired by the cosmetics brand in 2017 to be one of the faces of the True Match foundation line, but then fired days later for speaking out online about racism with regards to a violent neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville, US. In a Facebook post that was later deleted, Munroe said, “Honestly I don't have energy to talk about the racial violence of white people any more. Yes ALL white people. Because most of ya'll don't even realise or refuse to acknowledge that your existence, privilege and success as a race is built on the backs, blood and death of people of colour. Your entire existence is drenched in racism. From micro-aggressions to terrorism, you guys built the blueprint for this sh*t.”

L’Oreal said that Munroe’s comments were at odds with their values and they subsequently dropped her from the campaign.

People were divided over her comments and L’Oreal’s response at the time; with some feeling that Munroe implying “ALL white people” were racist was a step too far; but the majority shamed the brand for its decision to drop her from the campaign when True Match was exactly about celebrating diversity. Munroe spoke out about the death and rape threats she’d received in the wake of the L’Oreal partnership ending and even said that when she was on-set for the shoot the cosmetics company ended up using a different brand’s foundation after there wasn’t a shade that matched her tone.

This week, Munroe took to Twitter to express her rage towards the brand:

Now, media outlets such as the Daily Mail, The Guardian, Evening Standard, Metro and more have covered the saga, digging up all of the past negativity. So, what the brand thought was a well-meaning post to support the Black Lives Matter movement has again raised questions about its intent and whether this was no more than a PR move.

Written by Shannon Peerless, managing director of 10 Yetis Digital. Seen any good or bad PR lately? You know what to do @10Yetis on Twitter or on email

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