Social media has the ability to get a company noticed for good and bad reasons. When a company is able to go viral with a cute or charming social media post it could mean the beginning of something big. However, a seemingly cute or charming post could have in inverse effect and become a public relations nightmare.
For example Kenneth Cole made the cardinal sin of social media. They made light of a very serious situation in Egypt and came off very tacky. While it was meant to be a clever way to get people to go and look at the new spring collection it turned into a social media uproar.
Public relation nightmares are always the tough but the way they are handled will define a company. The steps made to rebuild the reputation were taken and they began with the public apology. I felt like the apology posted on the company Facebook page was appropriate and was able to make it sound sincere. However, the twitter post apology seemed to add fuel to the fire. Instead of coming out with an apology the twitter post made it seem like the original post was taken out of context. Wording of apology or retractions are every important and mean everything. Then the actions after show the audience that steps are being made to insure another incident won’t happen again.
The advice I would give Kenneth Cole for continuing to work with social media is to use it as a consumer conversation instead of an advertising venue. The uproar over the controversial post was over insensitivity while trying to push products. Audiences have come to dislike tacky advertising opportunities.
Zappos for example uses social media as a way to interact with customers and employees. Zappos gives employees the ability to be open and really empowers them through social media. The use of social media for Zappos isn’t an avenue to push traditional advertising techniques. While Zappos is still using it to sell its products is it a lot less traditional and suttle.
Social media and the Internet have given companies the ability to reach so much farther but the increase in reach increase the risk of a public relations disaster. Kenneth Cole’s controversy is a prime example of how social media can backfire. Every incident is unique but the first step is to issue a sincere apology and begin the rebuilding process.