Social Media Public Relation Nightmare

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.

kenneth cole

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.

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2 responses to “Social Media Public Relation Nightmare

  1. I think it is an interesting perspective to take on that Kenneth Cole should discontinue his use of the twitter for advertising and make it into a consumer conversation. This seems to be a very unique and few and far between way for larger companies to use twitter. I feel like it is a typical use for twitter to be used solely for advertisement. I think that changing the whole function of the twitter account after this large upset would be a really interesting and beneficial strategy. To completely flip it to a different subject matter, it would take the attention away from the old problem and focus it, instead, on the new content and things being tweeted about on the site. I think it would be beneficial for any company to take on an approach like Zappos does, Kenneth Cole could definitely use some positive feedback from his followers and this an easy way to get this.

  2. You made some very good points about public apologies not only in the way Kenneth Cole handled the situation but for public apologies in general. It is absolutely vital that regardless of how a comany wishes to deliver their apology, it be sincere and from the heart or people will see right through that.

    You mentioned that one online post (Facebook) sounded more sincere the other (Twitter) and I completely agree. When someone retorts quickly with a defense like “it was taken out of context,” this right away registers as though they are fight back and forcing people to understand where they were coming from. That will not work if their original post showed in insensitivity, in fact it event makes the situation worse. The best thing a company can do is simply listen first and foremost. Only then will they be able to think and respond rationally and not go with a knee-jerk reaction like “you misunderstood me.” You have to put yourself in their shoes for a moment. If you react out of a fighting mode, it will always make it worse and appear as though you don’t care.

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