On Wednesday February, 3, 2011 in the midst of the Egyptian revolution, the fashion house Kenneth Cole corporate Twitter account sent out this message: "Millions are in uproar in #Cairo. Rumor is they heard our new spring collection is now available online."
Funny? Most people didn’t think so and the backlash was swift and harsh. One tweet in response read: “Twitterverse slices & chops Kenneth Cole into cole slaw over insensitive tweet. #KennethCole”. And it didn’t stop there, the blogsphere went wild, the Kenneth Cole Facebook page is full of fans asking if there is a “hate” button. To make matters worse, he issued an apology but then on his Facebook page just kept cutting and pasting it on every negative fan post. That seemed to make fans even more incensed. One fan posted: “Instead of the cut and paste apology, why not actually engage with people? There's real humans at the other end of these messages you know. Customers and potential customers. Talk to them.”
Out of this debacle are some morals to the story:
- Think before you tweet or post or write a comment online. All it takes is one-hundred-and-forty-characters to ruin a CEO’s day.
- Do not leave your corporate reputation in the hands of an amateur. No doubt it was most likely someone who “is on Facebook” or took a weekend Twitter class, calling themselves a Social Media Marketer. (Many people do not think it was Kenneth Cole himself that sent the tweet. Reportedly when he sends his own tweets he signs them –Ken so people know it is him speaking.)
- Have a crisis communication plan in place. In the event that something does happen, you will be able to react quickly and properly.
Even though it should go without saying, it apparenlty need to be said: think before you tweet, post or blog. You never know how long it will take to repair your reputation.