Does Martha Stewart Have Soul?

Jan 16 00:36 2005 Stephanie Yeh Print This Article

DOES MARTHA STEWART HAVE SOUL?By ... Yeh and Raymond ... you think Martha Stewart deserves more, less or no jail time (more than 43% of ... in a recent USA Today poll thought she

By Stephanie Yeh and Raymond Yeh

Whether you think Martha Stewart deserves more,Guest Posting less or no jail
time (more than 43% of respondents in a recent USA Today poll
thought she should spend more time in jail), the diva of domestic
grace is using her time behind bars to boost her PR value sky

By going to jail early, sending out heartfelt web letters asking
people to donate money to the American Cancer Society charity
instead of mailing her money and gifts, and even offering to
assist underprivileged women start businesses, Stewart is walking
a very public "road to redemption."

While we can't really blame Stewart for making the best of a bad
situation, we have to wonder what kind of legacy this will create
for up-and-coming entrepreneurs and business leaders, not to
mention the American public as a whole.

Stewart's story already had enough rags-to-riches romance to make
her a top role model. Add to that her new seemingly humble
persona and her place as a societal icon is all but guaranteed.
But is what she's modeling good or bad or America?

Let's break down exactly what she's demonstrating, then you can
decide for yourself:

<><> Arrogance is Acceptable as Long as You're Successful <><>
Stewart is guilty of the sin common among most celebrity leaders:
hubris. She no doubt began believing everything her PR department
put out. She's been labeled "power mad," "mean spirited," and
"cruel" in the press, but the media-happy public was willing to
accept her and buy her products as long as she was a wealthy
public figure.

LESSON: It's perfectly acceptable to buy products from a
power-mad, mean spirited, cruel leader as long as she's popular
and the media likes her.

<><> You Can Recover from Any Fall With a Show of Humbleness <><>
Stewart is making a very public show of humble pie, but let's
take a deeper look at the motivations behind her actions. First,
she volunteered to enter prison even when she didn't have to.
Sounds humble, but why did she really do it? She says it's so she
could "be back to work before the spring planting season" (USA
Today, September 15, 2004).

She also offered to help underprivileged women start their own
businesses. But this was in fact really a means for her "she
could shorten her time in jail by offering to serve part or all
of her sentence," as reported in the July 19 issue of USA Today.

Finally, she has asked people to stop sending gifts and to start
donating to the American Cancer Society. Considering that Stewart
recently earned a healthy $8 million from sales of Omnimedia
stock (her own company), we have to wonder whether it wasreal
giving or just a public show of humility.

The net result? Stock climbed to a four-year high this month and
has climbed more than 70% since Stewart went behind bars.

LESSON: If you stumble, turn to your PR department for the right
"humble" moves to make. It will get you the sympathy vote and
keep your stock value high.

<><> Publicity is Always Good <><>
There is no such thing as bad publicity. Stewart made more
headlines as a jailbird than she ever did as the guru of gracious
living. She has had more opportunities than ever to put her
message forth, and attracted the attention of an entirely new
consumer base.

Aside from the curiosity seekers, Americans are a forgiving lot.
Says Rob Stearns of the business school at Arizona State
University and author of Winning Smart After Losing Big,
"Americans will forgive high crimes and misdemeanors and
impeachable offenses, but they won't forgive arrogance." With her
well-oiled PR department and public acts of contrition, Stewart
has this angle covered.

LESSON: When the media turns its spotlight on you, use it to your
advantage to increase your customer base and brand recognition.

In the aftermath of tragedies like Enron and Tyco, and in a time
when we need ethics, values, and soul more than ever, Stewart
demonstrates that almost any lack of personal and corporate
values can be forgiven if your PR department is good enough.

Stewart has shown us that success and fame are to be envied and
sought after, regardless. She demonstrates that being a money
hungry "control freak" behind bars is more newsworthy than
anything that actually improves the human condition.

While Martha Stewart isn't to be blamed for the general condition
of the media, we suggest that she will emerge from her jail time
more hardened and media-savvy. But will she be more socially
responsible (notice that her website
teaches people how to spend, shop, and consume more graciously
than ever but remains mute on good-citizen topics like giving and
donating)? And because she will be more of a role model than
ever, what kind of values or the lack of them will she pass on to
the next generation of business and public leaders?

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About Article Author

Stephanie Yeh
Stephanie Yeh

Stephanie Yeh has spent many years in the business world consulting with
major corporations around the world. She has also coached
numerous corporate executives and small business owners on business strategy
and management. Contact her at access her work

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