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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