Kyte Baby Offers Unbelievably Rough Apology

Thom Weidlich 01.25.24

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Kyte Baby is a small Texas company that makes bamboo-based, “unbelievably soft” sleepwear for tots. CEO Ying Liu was reportedly inspired to found the firm by a daughter with chronic eczema. Alas, Kyte Baby faces a major crisis due to its handling of a worker with a newborn put into a neonatal intensive-care unit.

In December, Kyte Baby employee Marissa Hughes adopted a premature baby boy who was born at only about one pound. He was kept in intensive care, and Hughes asked Kyte Baby to allow her to work remotely. The company said no and apparently fired her.

Naturally, this got out on social media and caused a backlash, which was especially severe because here we had a company catering to new parents that wasn’t treating new parents very well. Typically, a crisis related to what you do for a living is going to be severe.

Kyte Baby had gained a lot of its popularity on TikTok, and that’s where CEO Liu apologized to Hughes. The performance was stilted and seemed to be canned (“Kyte Baby prides itself on being a family-oriented company”), which only brought more grumbling. “I like how your lawyer prepared that statement,” one TikTok commenter wrote. “So sincere.”

‘Forever Amazed’

We’ve said it many times, but we’ll say it again: In crisis communications, getting it right the first time is crucial. So is humanizing your statements. “I am forever amazed at the tendency of corporate America to want to strip the humanity out of their communications, whether it be an apology or any other public statement,” CNN quoted James F. Haggerty, CEO of PRCG | Haggerty LLC, in its Kyte Baby story.

So, hours later, Liu was forced to try it again. She admitted her first apology was scripted and “wasn’t sincere.” She said it was she who “made the decision to veto [Hughes’] request to go remote,” which she called a “terrible decision.”

The forced re-apology was somewhat better but really didn’t do the job and a lot of people weren’t buying it. “This video was done on pure panic mode,” one wrote. Kyte Baby still has work to do to get it right.

In terms of humanizing crisis statements, Kyte Baby could learn from a good example from May of last year. The U.S. Department of Labor fined three McDonald’s franchisees for illegally employing more than 300 children — two of them 10-years-old —including working a deep fryer.

Corporate Verbiage

Tiffanie Boyd, SVP and chief people officer of McDonald’s USA, responded with some typical corporate verbiage such as, “We are committed to ensuring our franchisees have the resources they need to foster safe workplaces for all employees and maintain compliance with all labor laws.”

But she added this: “As a mother whose teenage son proudly worked at our local McDonald’s, I feel this on a very personal level.”

Boyd was saying, I’m not just a corporate suit. I’m a mother — of course I care about fighting child labor and promoting workplace safety. That sort of heartfelt response could have helped Kyte Baby win over those who are now so disapproving.

Photo credit: Kyte Baby via Facebook

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