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Where it went right and wrong for Kayla Itsines and Ashy Bines

For years on end, two names have dominated Australia’s fitness scene: Kayla Itsines and Ashy Bines.

Both women are undisputed social media stars with millions of followers online — and millions of dollars in the bank.

Last year, Ms Itsines, 27, and her fiance Tobi Pearce, 26, even catapulted to equal fifth and sixth place on the coveted AFR Young Rich List with an estimated combined wealth of $486 million.

But that success has also come with its fair share of controversies, with Ms Bines in particular facing allegations of plagiarism, overcharging customers, blocking and deleting negative comments, and bitter legal feuds over the years.

According to Aussie public relations expert Nicole Reaney, Ms Bines, 30, was one of the pioneers of fitness social influence and she managed to leverage her position as a “social media juggernaut” to establish her empire, boasting a “massive following” to this day.

She said Ms Bines had aligned herself with some positive causes and had been quick to share her side of the story when things went wrong.

But when a brand was so closely linked to a personality, she said handling negativity was even more critical.

“With Ashy a favourable aspect is that she has got in front of a camera and explained her side by creating a YouTube video. She was on the front foot in terms of the speed of response,” she said.

But she said it was a mistake to react defensively instead of acknowledging opponents’ perspectives.

“You need to demonstrate how you will make a change. If you’ve got X number of consumers complaining, you need to take steps to make things more transparent and build trust that way,” she said.

“Going forward, as an incident arises there must be an immediate response and transparency, along with acknowledging responsibility where reasonable and taking any steps to repair it.”

Ms Reaney said Ms Itsines had also copped criticism over the years — most notably her exercise techniques, and for exercising with weights while pregnant.

“Kayla too faces the media and is not afraid to share her perspective but she explains her position assertively and with compassion; she doesn’t delete comments and her army of followers act as support when one person does critique her,” she said.

“She’s achieved multiple awards and last year appeared on the young rich list so she has become a truly global brand, but she appears humble and relatable in all her interactions.”

She said Ms Itsines’ decision not to accept sportswear collaborations demonstrated her commitment to “live her brand values”.

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Nicole Reaney, Director of InsideOut PR and founder of influencer agency, #AsSeenOn . Nicole has extensive experience in corporate and consumer PR and Communications as is available to comment on topics.

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