I received an email from a client with a forward from Tory Johnson of Good Morning America, Women for Hire, and Spark and Hustle fame. It was titled, “Haters gonna hate!”
In this email, Mrs. Johnson discusses her new book/movement, “The Shift” and the praise and critiques she’s received since its launch. Approximately half way through the email, Tory revealed the criticism that cut the deepest. Someone wrote her and said, “You don’t care about helping other women lose weight. You just want our money for your book sales.” While Tory is writing this off as someone being a hater (at the advice of her 16 year old daughter) I see something totally different. I see a client having a negative experience with Tory Johnson, her brands, or both. What could be awry with the PR Princess’ brands? As I dug a little deeper, here is what I found.
- Same Thing, Different Name (Same Face, Different Place). All three of Tory Johnson’s brands (Women For Hire, Spark and Hustle, and The Shift) have the exact same business model. Each includes a book and a conference, where once in attendance, premium products and services will be sold to you. To boost your feeling of influence, you are invited to work for Tory by being an ambassador or host or sponsor for an additional investment. But does it really boost your influence or only Tory’s bottom line?
- Brand Confusion. While Mrs. Johnson’s movement from Women for Hire to Spark and Hustle appeared seamless, this latest venture, which has the exact same business model, is clearly not. Women definitely maneuver from the workplace into entrepreneurship, but not all women are on a weight loss journey. For those who follow Tory Johnson, the turning of a life experience into a movement can make one feel abandoned. I thought we were Sparking and Hustling??!! Now you only want to talk about how you lost weight and created a better life? I’m confused.
- Stop talking about it and Be About it. The real reason this person wrote Tory Johnson with her “hate” is because there is a disconnect between the image, or promise, that Tory Johnson and her brands emits and the experience. Based on my research, this disconnect was created when Mrs. Johnson STOPPED staying connected to the audience that propelled her into the limelight. She stopped working with them and started talking about the work she did with them. Women for Hire started in 1999. Spark and Hustle appears to be in the hands of affiliates with programs like Daring Doers and the BBF initiative. Her work was not speaking and writing books—those are tools to spread the word about her real work. And more speaking and more books won’t fix the problem, either. When you spend so much time writing books and speeches and preparing to speak, coupled with the other responsibilities she has as a wife, mother, mentor, and community leader, there is no time to actually connect with the struggles and triumphs of your fan and customer base. When this happens, your core customer feels abandoned, frustrated, and devalued—thus the “…you just want our money for your book sales” comment.
Tory Johnson, I implore you to take a second look at the “hate mail” comments you received and referenced in your eblast. Then, I want you analyze where you started and what steps you took to get where you are. Lastly, I want you to remember that most of the women who look up to you are somewhere in the middle of that staircase. You cannot just speak to them from the front of a crowded conference hall. They don’t want to just read your story on their Kindles. That may work for some other mediapreneur, but it is not working for you. Your customers are telling you that they miss the “Tory in the Story”—they need you back at work. Your work is being an awesome connector and conduit of entrepreneurial energy. Once you return to that, you will get true hate mail—the kind where the only thing they can say is “I thought you looked better fat.”
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