The Blog

Thigh Gaps and Social Traps: Target Photoshop Fail

I can picture the conference room at Target Corporate Office the morning after their recent thigh gap Photoshop fail was brought to light. A group of designers, marketers and PR staff huddled around a speaker phone with cross C-Suite professionals on the other end.

“We don’t need to tell you how bad this is,” boomed a commanding voice. “The past four months haven’t exactly been our best from a public perception standpoint. We’re going to talk about how this happened, but right now I need you to tell me how we’re going to fix this.”

The Director of PR perked up. “Well Mr. Steinhafel, we have been working on a crisis management proposal all night. We’ll send it to you for approval by noon today.”

After the call ended, wide-eyes glanced at each other fleetingly and then diverted to the conference table. “I think we should send an apology e-mail,” chirped a voice after 12 awkward seconds of silence. “We could also ramp up efforts on our Corporate Responsibility website,” said another.

“That’s a great idea Becky. Let’s post about our commitment to the physical and emotional health of our customers and employees.”

In case you haven’t heard about this story, Target was recently called out for a ridiculous Photoshop job that was performed on a young model wearing a swimsuit that hangs in the retailer’s Juniors section. Check out Jezebel’s recent article for more details.

As a social media manager, what can you take away from the Target Photoshop fail?

Focus on Ethics. Whether you’re representing your own brand or a client’s on social media, it’s imperative to fully understand the organization’s ethical stance on pertinent issues so you can align your content and messaging. Thorough industry research is a fundamental and expected as part of the job.

While you’re doing your homework, look for angles and topics that spark your genuine interest and passions. Doing so will not only allow you to understand things from a broader perspective, but will also help develop genuine interest and advocacy for industry-related issues. Today’s e-consumers are smart and will pick apart thinly-veiled efforts to “cover your tracks” or promote faux philanthropy. If you want to learn more about social media ethics, NPR provides several items to consider in their Ethics Handbook.

PR has Evolved. Going back to its inception, a foundational premise of PR is to promote goodwill. A few companies in health and fashion retail have separated themselves from the rest in this respect. Dove, Aerie and Pantene have developed campaigns centered on a healthier, more natural depiction of the female body. Additionally, the social media boom has enabled PR teams to respond to concerns instantly. Unlike their recent credit card hack response, I have yet to see anything on Target’s social channels regarding the Photoshop debacle. Instead, they addressed the “unfortunate mistake” through a release to To stay abreast of the ever-changing world of social PR, I recommend checking out Social #PR Chat. They do a great job of relaying news and events related social media and PR.

What are your thoughts about Target’s Photoshop incident and their PR response? Leave a comment below or tweet @AHersh317 to let me know!