Crisis Communications: Kelly Cutrone v Women in PR

kelly-cutrone-women-in-prOn September 20-23, 2012, Women in PR hosted it’s 2nd Annual Summit & Retreat in Miami, FL.  Kelly Cutrone of Peoples Revolution was scheduled to appear as keynote speaker for the conference, but that did not happen due to breach of contract allegations.

According to their Eventbrite page, event registration was about $395.00 for the weekend affair, but you may notice that there was a separate $135 fee for a Closing Brunch featuring Kelly Cutrone of People’s Revolution, a public relations firm with offices in NY, LA and Europe.  Many of you may recognize Cutrone from America’s Next Top Model with Tyra Banks, or for her work in the public relations and fashion industries.

According to her Twitter feed @peoplesrev, up until September 19, 2012, Cutrone fully expected to participate in the Women in PR summit (#WIPRSummit) in Miami and even encouraged her followers to tweet her if they were expecting to come.

Due to an alleged breach of contract for nonpayment, Kelly Cutrone felt obligated to release the following video via her Facebook page on Thursday, Sept. 20.  In the video, Cutrone criticizes Women in PR for being “America’s most fraudulent PR organization.”

Kelly Cutrone felt so strongly on the matter that she also shared images of her team’s correspondence with Women in PR on her Facebook page, copies of the speakers agreement, a letter from her lawyers demanding payment of the agreed upon speakers fee, and a warning that if WIPR did not act as they had agreed, a lawsuit may be in their future. You can see Cutrone’s shares by clicking here.

A back-and-forth conversation has been going on between Kelly Cutrone, Women in PR, summit attendees, and WIPR Twitter followers. Apparently, WIPR failed to notify its attendees of the cancellation and numerous attendees were confused and wondering whether there would be refunds for the special brunch tickets.

Women in PR tweeted a comment directly to @YOakleyPR about the controversy between their brand and Kelly Cutrone, saying, “Remember there is always two sides of a story. How professional is to put ur business on SM as a professional? Nobody missed her!”  OfficialKells, a Twitter user, had the following to say on the matter, “@womeninPR1 seriously blocked me for supporting @peoplesrev -__- #fail Truth hurts, I guess. lol.”

According to SlideShare, Women in PR’s co-founder, Anje Collins, posted a sponsorship presentation on March 20,2012 that advertised “2nd Annual Women In PR Summit & Retreat 2012 Miami featuring Keynote Speaker Kelly Cutrone founder of Peoples Revolution” in the information section.  The email chain from Collins (as shown on Cutrone’s FB page) says that there was no agreement and they do not intend to pay the speakers fee — but all of the advertising materials imply otherwise.

You would also have to have a keen eye to note that WIPR has already removed any reference of Kelly Cutrone from their website. While advertising the conference, a copy of the flyer featured in this post was prominently displayed on their website along with a blog post announcing “Peoples Revolution Founder, Kelly Cutrone Slated as Keynote Speaker.”

Unfortunately for them, the Internet lives on forever, be it in external blog posts, dead links or images hosted on third party sites—the information is still out there and available.

UPDATE: Although I intended to write a follow up piece discussing Women in PR’s response to these accusations, but they never published an official response via their blog (as rumored when this issue initially came to light). As far as I can tell, there have been no mentions of the Kelly Cutrone fraud accusations against Women in PR on their Facebook, Twitter or WordPress blog, as of December 2012, and they fully intend to continue coordinating the Women in PR Summit for Houston 2013.

Leave a comment sharing your suggestions on how Women in PR could handle this crisis communications issue.

Image via Caltweet

Yasheaka Oakley Owens

Yasheaka Oakley Owens is the owner of YOakleyPR, a woman-owned small business that provides public relations, social media, and online marketing support services to small businesses and 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations in Southeastern Pennsylvania, Southern New Jersey and Delaware.

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  • EllaBrockmane

    Anje Collins and Women in PR are Fraudulent and a Scam! She TALKS a good game but creates little to no results! She swindles people out of money and has all kinds of excuses on why she can not get the job done! Google her name and the word scam and fraud. She doesn’t know Anyone. Her clients are all D list and thanks to her remain D list. She has small little minions who comment on her post and keep her scams going hoping to gain something from her, but they just like her “clients” gain Nothing but a BAD REPUTATION! The worst thing is she just wrote a fraudulent book about how to be a PR agent!, which is the biggest Joke on the planets!
    If you are invited or pay for her PR Seminars (Women in PR), Run! She cancels and does not return the monies pre-paid to attend. She is shunned by top agents in the PR world. SHE IS A JOKE and a LIER. Google any success stories, there are none. She is a has been from the early 90’s that’s goose is cooked and all dried up!

  • Hi Monica, in the past 3 months, I have seen an increase of advertising for the WIPR Houston Summit on LinkedIn Groups and have made an effort not to give them my pageviews. It is my understanding that their website is hosted on WordPress, which offers a “Press This” tool that easily creates a summary and read more link to an original piece, but I would liken the sample that you presented to something similar to what one finds on PR Daily in that it copies the entire article and then provides an attribution link to the author’s original post.

    In my personal opinion, one can paraphrase, or include a teaser summary, but he or she should not copy the entire post without the original author’s position. Not to say that WIPR is copying whole articles without the authorization of the original write, I know nothing of this and can not confirm or suggest any such thing, but i do agree that it lessens the value of the original article if you copy it in its entirety.

    For what reason would I click the attribution link to “read more” if I’ve read it all on your website? Couldn’t that be considered stealing the pageview? In some cases, that’s all a blogger has to validate the value of their online presence! Hope that helps!

  • Yasheaka, I was wondering if you have any update on this event? I’ve been seeing WIPR sharing blog posts frequently in LinkedIn Groups. After clicking on a few, it seems many of them have been taken from other sites with a link to the original post (for example, http://womeninpr.wordpress.com/2013/06/25/15-tips-for-a-successful-pr-career/). I don’t know if WIPR has expressed permission from the authors to do this or not, but what is your opinion on the practice? Is this something considered ok in the blogging world as long as you attribute it back to the original site? I’ve read lots on blogging, and I understand there is quite a debate on attribution in our social media world. WIPR’s practice, though, seems questionable. Thanks.

  • Hello all! I just wanted to leave a comment apologizing for the dead SlideShare link. Apparently, Anje Collins removed the SlideShare presentation that she had uploaded to (http://www.slideshare.net/anjecollins/women-in-pr-sponsorship-deck-miami-a) as a promotional item for the Women in PR Summit.

    I hope that this post has helped keep everyone informed. I have found many of the comments educational and would encourage anyone considering this organization to read the comments listed here before doing so.

  • Jasmine Jason

    This is a very interesting blog post, especially since I had concerns regarding the organization.

    I recall emailing them for further information because their website lacked the proper information and all they sent me back was an email from a cell phone that stated, “Call me.” Highly unprofessional in my opinion. They want people to pay membership dues and attend their summits and any PR professional who decides to attend these events should do their due diligence when it comes to researching who and what they are all about. This blog certainly confirms my suspicions on their ethical practices.

  • Hi Julia, thanks for sharing your Collins experience. I’m hearing a lot about how the Women in PR organization does not hold true to their promises for refunds or reimbursements. I suspect that it’s this negative history and publicity, that forces them to jump between different major metro markets for events. I saw on Twitter last week that they are still discussing Houston 2013 and can only wonder if they think that market wouldn’t have heard about Miami 2012?

  • Back in February 2012, Anje Collins was to refund me $750 for vendor fees of an event at the NBA All Star Weekend which was cancelled. I only received $200 of that back, she has been avoiding my calls, emails and letters. She has done this to numerous others and I figured it would catch up to her someday. Karma is a b@&#h.

  • Hi Steve, thanks for sharing your opinion. I found her strategy to be somewhat curious, but I must agree with you, she sure is ramping up quite a bit of publicity from it! I can’t wait for the lawsuit to be filed in the public court and the sharing that will go on then!
    Thanks for commenting.

  • Sade, thank you for sharing your experience. This post has received quite a few views, so I hope that another young woman inspiring to move up in the public relations industry sees your words and benefits from them.

    I haven’t seen any statement either. The closest thing to it are some posts actually advertising Houston 2013!

  • Yes Yasheaka, the conference was a tragedy.

    I didn’t even bother attending the second or third day and figured I would take up my frustrations with the Anje after the conference, because she was visibly frazzled by all the bad PR her organization was getting. However, her uneasiness quickly translated to poor tact, as she bashed Kelly on multiple occasions openly at the conference. She was texting on her phone in the middle of panels, and on the first day of the conference she was wearing a jean jacket and a maxi dress, even though in the emails prior to, she stressed business attire. I know publicists are trendy, but there is nothing “business” about a jean jacket and multi-colored maxi dress. She also cut off panelists when the audience directed questions towards them and would interject her “expertise.” I could go on and on, about this SCAM of an organization but an organization that operates like that can only stick around for so long. It just saddens me, because the members are mostly students/new grads who are getting scammed.

    I fell victim to Women in PR too. I was in the beginning stages of my career and thought it as good opportunity to network when I first signed up back in Dec 2011 for the March event in Las Vegas. I got a job two weeks before the event and because the timing was so close, she only allowed me to switch to the Miami conference in September instead of issuing me a refund. Three days after I switched my conference registration, she cancelled the Las Vegas conference due to “low registration” (which means she knew all along that she would be doing refunds, but instead committed me to yet another conference). I figured something was up then when she low-balled me but I proceeded to go to the conference in Miami anyway. Luckily, I have a friend that stays in Miami so all was not lost, I still had a good time outside the conference. I just want to inform others before they fall victim to the same SCAM!!

    Oh and in case you’re wondering, “yes” I am STILL waiting on my refund from a month ago!! SMH… Just like we are all STILL waiting on a “statement” which just like my refund, I will probably never see. What kind of “PR” organization does that?

  • Kelly Cutrone is not a PR person, she is an event publicist, but her TV “celebrity” has allowed her to blur that important distinction. I’m not sure why she felt she would win in the court of public opinion by making this dispute public, but with her TV show on hiatus, she’s probably following the age old strategy of the publicist, “I don’t care what you say about me, as long as you spell my name right.”

  • Wow! I am not a fan of Kelly Cutrone. I think her approach was rather blunt and not quite professional either. However, with posting the original contract and snaps from the communication she added veracity to her side of the story. Since the organization seems to be stalling their response, it makes them look bad, even if there was more to the story.

  • My word! Sade, I had heard some stories about the conditions at the event, but your story is by far the most detailed and disappointing to hear. I’m not a WIPR member, nor did I attend the summit, so I am very glad that you took the time to share your experience.

    I am still waiting on the rumored “official response” that I heard they were going to post on their blog. Still haven’t seen any damage control on their part. This late in the game, I’m wondering if they ever will respond.

  • WIPR is very unprofessional. I’m still waiting on my refund for the Women in PR Summit, which Anje agreed to refund me. It’s been three weeks, and I’m still waiting.

    I can also back up Rita’s comment. So many people that were supposed to be in attendance, weren’t and many of the classes were cancelled. Ironically, as a PR organization, they failed to communicate to attendees all of the changes. The event was unorganized and a waste of time to attend.

    When I spoke with Anje about the fact that there were no greeters, registration sign-in, name tags, and missing panelists and keynote; she acted offended that I wanted a refund. Challenging that there is no way I could have left the weekend without learning anything? She then proceeded with a Beyonce metaphor (is this real life?) stating that my wanting a refund after the conference was like attending a Beyonce conference and asking for a refund after the concert because I wasn’t happy with the way she sang. To that I replied, a better metaphor would be me paying for a Beyonce concert, flying out to see her, and her not being there!

    However, after some back and forth and myself being reduced to using Beyonce metaphors to communicate my frustrations to her, she grudgingly agreed to my refund. It’s obvious from the Kelly Cutrone situation, that despite written commitments, she is not always a woman of her word. I have emails where she agrees to refund me my money, but I’ll keep you guys posted if that ever happens! SMH!

  • I can back up Kelly Cutrone’s statement about plagiarism.
    I found one of my original blog posts on the Women in PR blog with no attribution to me or link back to my website. They posted it as if they had written it and when I asked them to take it down, they acted like they didn’t want to. Totally unprofessional and unethical in my book.

  • Rita

    Actually, the secondary speaker they had booked didn’t show up and some of the panelists I heard didn’t show up either. Some of the classes they had were canceled, and some people they ripped off want their money back. WIPR didn’t have a keynote speaker and they failed to communicate to attendees what was going on.

  • Hi Monica, I have yet to see any “official statement” from WIPR in regards to the cancellation. From what I’m hearing, attendees weren’t notified prior to the conference and Cutrone was replaced by another speaker.

    I did see that they posted an “attendee testimonial” via Facebook, but not much else. Will keep you posted.

  • Thanks for the thorough coverage of this crisis communications event. It seems that WIPR would take the chance to explain their side of the story, especially given the chance through such a blog post. Did they issue any type of apology or refund to participants expecting to hear Cutrone? That would be a first step in handling the crisis.

  • Thanks for the great coverage of this controversy! I had heard a few things about it but haven’t had time to go read all the tweets and updates. I would love to hear Women in PR’s side of the story before I form an opinion, but I have always been a huge Kelly Cutrone fan so I really hope they have a good reason for the contract breach.